At the end of the first quarter today in Newark it was 27-25 Celtics. The Nets played pretty well in the first quarter and seemed to have their offense clicking. And then they decided not to show up for the final three quarters and got embarrassed on their home court. I’m going to try and stay realistic in this recap and realize that even on their best day the Nets probably would not have beaten Boston. But their lack of offense is really starting to get ridiculous. I’ll get into this more later but it is almost unfathomable that an NBA team can score just 50 points over 3 quarters, including just TWELVE in the second.
Just prior to the game we found out that Rajon Rondo was out and Nate Robinson would be the starting point guard. Considering that Devin Harris was back in the lineup, this made me feel pretty good. But what happens? Robinson plays one of the best all-around games in his career, scoring 21 points and 8 of 12 shooting while dishing out 6 assists and grabbing 6 boards. Devin was clearly a bit rusty in his return as he had more turnovers than assists and scored just 7 points in 24 minutes. Before this game I talked about him needing to be a spark against one of the best teams in the NBA and while it’s hard to place much of the blame at his feet, I’m sure he would admit that he didn’t have a very strong game.
There is no doubt that the turning point of this game was the Nets’ horrible second quarter. They scored 25 points in the 1st quarter and actually executed pretty well on offense against one of the league’s best defenses. But in the second they turned the ball over, took bad shots and showed that they are still susceptible to incredibly long scoring draughts. I don’t care what kind of defense the opponent is playing, you should not go 4 and a half minutes into a quarter without scoring, which is exactly what the Nets did. Against the league’s best teams like Boston, you need to keep the game close and hope you get on a run late in the game. While the Nets did an effective job of this in the first quarter, they completely lost their way in the second quarter and were down by 20 at halftime.
I realize that because of the nature of the game as a blowout, most of the starters did not play that many minutes. But Brook Lopez’s game really puzzles me. Before this season everyone (including me) was singing his praises as one of the best up and coming centers in the NBA. But he has frankly had too many sub-par efforts like yesterday’s game this season. If you are going to be one of the go-to-guys on this team, you cannot only take 6 shots in 21 minutes. His rebounds also continue to be too low as he grabbed just 6 in the game.
When your offense struggles usually the two primary things that go with it are missed/bad shots and turnovers. The Nets turned the ball over 18 times, which isn’t a crazy amount, but they shot the ball horribly today. They shot just 37.5% from the field and were 16-24 from the charity stripe. It is really hard to definitively determine what the issue is with their shooting percentage. Sure they have a tendency to take some bad shots at times but I don’t even think that is the biggest problem. To put it bluntly they really do not have many great shooters. Anthony Morrow is the only pure “shooter” on the roster and while guys like Jordan Farmar and Harris can consistently hit jump shots, they are still very streaky. This all brings me back to Brook Lopez and the inside players. If you aren’t a good jump shooting team, get the ball inside and don’t take as many jumpers. It isn’t rocket science.
It’s really hard to take any positives from this game but I suppose I can give some credit to the rook. Favors was one of only three Nets in double figures (Morrow had 10 and Farmar put in 16) and he had a few nice plays on the offensive end. I think it’s time for Avery to start giving him more minutes considering how this team has been playing. Derrick Favors has now been through a full quarter of an NBA season and with the way the Nets have been playing, they might as well try something different and give him more playing time. I wouldn’t be opposed either to putting him in the starting lineup to change things up a bit.
As I write this and think about where this team is right now, I find it a little hard to believe that they are 6-15 and 9 games under .500. I really liked what I saw in the first few games of the season but I think some of these close losses may be catching up with them. In my game preview I talked about how their two losses earlier this week were about as bad as it gets, and I think they unfortunately carried that into today’s game. They played a very solid first quarter but then it almost seemed like they hit a wall. I find it hard to criticize Avery Johnson because I really think he’s done a good job and the team has responded to him. But at some point you need to get some W’s. I wasn’t expecting the Nets to contend for an NBA title this season but I did not expect them to be this bad through 21 games.
So after a very rough week and in the midst of a 4-game losing streak, the Nets have to go to Atlanta, Dallas and then come home to face the Lakers this week. It certainly doesn’t get any easier for them and they will have to try and find some offense quick to get this thing turned around and win a few games.