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Here’s a roundup of last night’s Nets festivities.
What happened: The Nets dropped their third straight game in heartbreaking fashion, a 97-96 loss to the Eastern Conference-leading Indiana Pacers. The Nets staged a comeback that lasted nearly the entire second half, and a wild Joe Johnson three-pointer cut the lead to 94-93 with 18.6 seconds left. The Pacers left the door open with some missed free throws, but an airball from Paul Pierce with five seconds left all but sealed the deal.
That was… The first game of the Adam Silver era as NBA commissioner, and an entertaining one throughout, remaining close despite the Nets never leading in the second half.
Where they stand: The Nets drop to 20-25, but still hold sole possession of the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. If the season ended today, they’d face the Miami Heat in the first round, who they’ve now beaten twice in two attempts this season.
Can’t Keep Pace: With the loss, the Pacers sweep the season series against the Nets, winning all four games between the two teams. Before the game, Pacers coach Frank Vogel told the media that he expected to see the Nets in the playoffs. Might just be wishful thinking on his part.
Silver lining: The Nets lost by just one point to the best team in the Eastern Conference in their building on the second half of a back-to-back to a team that’s 22-2 at home despite not having their best perimeter defender and their team leader in PER.
Dark cloud: The first three words of that last bullet: the Nets lost.
Game Grades: Read ’em here.
Living, son: Shaun Livingston did nothing incredible Saturday night. No high-flying dunks or spin moves. Just boring jumper in the lane after boring jumper in the lane, penetrating Indiana’s defense and getting clean looks with his high release. He finished the night with a season-high 24 points, shooting 10-18 from the floor, and bothering Paul George; George shot 6-13 and committed all four of his turnovers with Livingston as his primary defender, finishing 7-19 overall from the field.
And that’s maybe the most encouraging thing about Livingston’s performance: he didn’t do anything he shouldn’t be able to do. He should be able to get off those clean looks in the lane. He should be able to post up point guards like George Hill. He can, in a pinch, be the team’s perimeter defender extraordinaire. Despite the loss, the 2 PG lineup worked tonight.
Well, at least one PG in the lineup worked tonight: After six games coming off the bench, Deron Williams joined the starting lineup for the first time since returning to the active roster. But he looked more like a veteran’s minimum than a veteran presence: Williams missed nine of his first ten shots, only salvaging his shooting with a late layup and a three-pointer with 0.4 seconds left on the clock to cut the lead to one. Williams had a decent game outside of his shooting, but he didn’t look comfortable with his jumper all night. He finished with 13 points on 3-12 shooting, adding six assists.
Salt in the wound: With the Pacers up one with the ball and 0.4 seconds on the clock, center Luis Scola threw the ball off Paul Pierce’s back, ending the game. It particularly stung because it’s something Williams could have done Monday; the Nets were up one and Kyle Lowry stood in front of Williams, the inbounder, not facing him.
Kevin Garnett, alive:
Kevin Garnett turned a low pass from Jason Terry into a highlight. Say what you want about Garnett’s aged legs, but when he looks good, he looks good. Garnett had a quietly good night, finishing with 12 points and 10 rebounds on 6-9 shooting.
At least it wasn’t another futility record: The Nets were walloped on the glass for the second straight game, getting heartily out-dueled on the glass, 46-27. Combined with the team’s record-low 17 rebounds the night before, and Brooklyn put up the second-worst two-game stretch on the glass in NBA history.
The Andrei & Andray (no-)Show: The Nets were without Andrei Kirilenko and Andray Blatche, the former nursing a sore calf and the latter a bruised hip. Kirilenko didn’t travel with the team, an unfortunate development since they could’ve used his defense against Paul George.
In their place, the Nets played Mason Plumlee, who apparently thinks you’re supposed to rack up fouls (he had four in the first half, five total) and Reggie Evans, who apparently thinks he can score on Roy Hibbert. So that was about how that went.
Chants Stephenson: Joe Johnson was named an All-Star reserve over Pacers forward Lance Stephenson, drawing Stephenson’s ire and a vow of revenge against Johnson. (Johnson didn’t exactly pick himself over Stephenson, but hey, whatever gets you motivated, I guess.) Johnson drew a foul in the first quarter, and the crowd reacted on Stephenson’s behalf, chanting “NOT AN ALL-STAR” at Johnson.
Johnson responded with two quick buckets, and the Nets apparently chanted back:
Lance Stephenson is in constant conversation with the Nets bench already. It's not all cordial.
— Andrew Keh (@andrewkeh) February 2, 2014
Joe Cool, Bein’ Ridiculous:
With the Nets down 94-90, Joe Johnson dribbled around aimlessly for a few seconds too long, drew my ire, dribbled out with Roy Hibbert on him, fired a contested, fadeaway three-pointer, and drilled it, because Joe Johnson couldn’t care less about your thoughts on conventional wisdom.
Ian Eagle, Out Of Context: “You’re an attractive man, I’ll say it.”
Lance Stephenson’s Anger, Taken Out On Ed Malloy:
Yes, that is Brooklyn native and All-Star snub in Lance Stephenson’s mind Lance Stephenson posterizing referee Ed Malloy after an offensive foul call on Roy Hibbert. Stephenson was livid that Joe Johnson was picked over him as the final Eastern Conference reserve for the All-Star Game, vowing to prove that he deserved it.
Joe Johnson’s response after the game: “He’s gotta take that up with the coaches.” The coaches voted for Johnson.
My Thoughts At The Half: This is eerily reminiscent of the five-point loss. I get the feeling whichever team has the hotter third quarter will take this one.
Third Quarter: The Pacers rocketed out to a 12-2 start with some sluggish play from Brooklyn’s stars, but the Nets bounced back behind Shaun Livingston’s jumpers and soft touch in the lane, erasing what was once an eleven-point lead and cutting it to two. The Pacers ended up winning the quarter by one, so, I was kind of right?
Weird Math: The Nets forced the Pacers into 23 turnovers, limited them to 3-15 shooting from beyond the arc… and still lost.
Weird math, Part 15: The Nets had 15 assists, 15 turnovers, and 15 steals.
Across the river: The New York Knicks lost to the Heat, 102-87, in Madison Square Garden. The Knicks fell to 19-28 with the loss, one game behind the Charlotte Bobcats for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Next up: The Nets get Super Bowl Sunday off, but that’s about it: they’ll return to Brooklyn to take on the 15-32 Philadelphia 76ers Monday night. It’s the first time the two face off since the Sixers defeated the Nets in overtime in Philadelphia on December 21st, in the game where Brook Lopez broke his foot and ended his season.