The Nets have had a hard enough time resembling an NBA team with Devin Harris and Brook Lopez on the floor this season. Take them both out for an extended period and the end result is what happened in last night’s 111-79 loss to the Golden State Warriors, New Jersey’s 10th “L” in a row, pushing their record to an abominable 3-39.
With their full lineup in tact for the game’s first 24 minutes, the Nets survived a more down than up half, whittling Golden State’s lead from 17 to 6 once the second quarter ended. During the 19-8 run to close the second, the Nets rode Courtney Lee (17 points, 6 rebounds, 6-13 shooting), who hit two threes and scored 10 points during the spurt, and had capitalized on some poor shooting by Golden State.
The problem with the Nets these days, especially since Kiki Vandeweghe took control of the team from Lawrence Frank in December, is that the Nets can only manage these competitive spurts for about 6-10 minutes a game. For the remaining 40, they’re selfish and lazy on offense, lazy and inept on defense, and overall just a miserable basketball team that’s capable of getting embarrassed by anybody in the NBA, from first-place teams like the Boston Celtics, to bottom feeding teams like the 13-28 Warriors.
The first turning point for the Nets came when Devin Harris sat the entire second half on the bench, nursing his wrist injury which, to his credit, he’s been trying to play through for the past few weeks. While I admire the leadership, it’s not like he’s doing anything to help this team. He had another poor shooting night, finishing with 4 points on 1-6 from the field, including 1-4 from within 10-feet.
But with the Nets, all it takes is the slightest bit of adversity for them to fold like a cheap suit and turn a competitive game into a laugher for their opponents. With Keyon Dooling running the point and the other four starters on the floor, the Warriors pushed their lead back to 16, nevermind the fact that they were without one of their best players, Monta Ellis, for the second half as well. I guess those things are irrelevant when a team is playing the Nets.
Still, the start of the second half wasn’t even rock bottom for the Nets. With about 4:39 left in the third quarter, Brook Lopez (21 points, 6 rebounds), probably the only Net who can be relied upon for anything positive anymore, picked up his fourth foul. The Nets were trailing 76-63. The Nets were outscored 35-16 the rest of the way, including only two points for the rest of the third quarter, and 14 points for all of the fourth.
It would take thousands of words to break down everything the Nets did wrong in this game – getting outrebounded 44-41, turning the ball over 20 times, shooting just 35 percent from the field, allowing Stephen Curry, who Don Nelson for some insane reason played for all 48 minutes in blowout, to get open time and time again enroute to 32 points – but I think instead I’m just going to focus on the play of Yi Jianlian (2 points, 1-6 shooting), who on this road trip, seems to be sliding back to the player we regrettably remember from a year ago, rather than the changed player in the weeks following his return from injury.
For starters, Yi is just truly, truly deplorable on the defensive end. It just feels like whoever the opposition throws out there against Yi is going to have a big night. With the Warriors going small, Yi was matched up a bunch against Corey Maggette, and the results weren’t pretty.Maggette finished with 29 points on 9-14 shooting, including 10-12 from the free throw line. At the 4:08 mark in the third, Maggette gave a slight head fake near the top of the key, which was just enough to get Yi ridiculously airborne, opening up a clean path to the basket (what, no help D? Wait, we’re talking about the Nets here) for a dunk. It wouldn’t be such a big deal if plays like that didn’t happen with Yi at least a half dozen times per game.
From the naked eye, it just appears that Yi is only focused on his offensive game. And he’s starting to develop some bad habits. For example, at the 9:17 mark in the first, the Nets put Yi in isolation against Anthony Tolliver where Yi went baseline and picked up a travel. For the whole play, it was like he was in tunnel vision mode, looking only to shoot, never considering a pass out and reset once it started breaking down. Even if Yi didn’t travel, Tolliver had such great position defensively, the angle Jianlian had for the shot was so impossible, he wasn’t getting those two points.
Which brings me to the larger point, and my biggest gripe with Kiki, who I think coaches sometimes like he’s a lame duck who wants nothing to do with the position. If Kiki is really all about bringing the young players along, he needs to start enforcing a team concept with Yi, even if it means Yi has to watch some of the game from the bench. Yi just had absolutely nothing last night. Nothing. He wasn’t taking ill-advised shots per se, but he was just getting tortured by Warriors. It’s nice that Kiki is encouraging Yi to be aggressive, but Yi needs to trust his teammates more when defenses are primed for him. Instead, Yi is a black hole with the ball, and while his scoring average is up, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Nets have put up some of their most pitiful performances since Yi returned from injury. He’s just not a good team player.
More thoughts after the jump.
Is there anything more symbolic for the Nets than the first possession of the game? Courtney Lee misses an 18-footer, which is rebounded by Brook Lopez who hits the front of the rim from about 12-feet out, which is rebounded again, under the basket, by Yi, who gets blocked by Monta Ellis.
The Nets just find ways to compound mistakes. At the 2:35 mark in the first, Courtney Lee got the ball knocked away yet managed to recover at halfcourt with about 7 seconds left on the 24. He tried to make a quick pass to Kris Humphries in the left corner, but it was picked off by Monta Ellis leading to an uncontested slam for Corey Maggette.
Not a game goes by where I’m not impressed by something Kris Humphries is doing out there. At the 7:38 in the third, Humphries made a very impressive move, getting the ball about 18-feet out with his back to the basket, while being guarded by Tolliver. Humphries made a spin move and blew by Tolliver along the left baseline to get a dunk. If Hump could just develop into a better man defender, I think he has the tools to be a legit player in this league.
At the 6:04 mark in the first, Anthony Tolliver hits his first three of the season from the right corner. Yi wasn’t within 15 feet from him on the defensive end.
Andris Biedrins looks like a stock villain from one of the Die Hard movies. And I appreciate the crowd cheering him on at the free throw line, considering the guy is shooting 11 percent from the charity stripe this season.