Thoughts on the Game: Charlotte Bobcats 91, New Jersey Nets 84 — A Tale of Atrocity

AP Photo/Chuck Burton

Clear your mind. If someone told you that your favorite basketball team scored 48 points in its first three quarters of play, would you be surprised that your team lost at the end of the night? Probably not. Still, the Nets suffered this horrible circumstance and still managed to take the Charlotte Bobcats to OT Friday night. That said, they did still ultimately fall 91-84 in the game.

For the first three quarters, this was close to the most sloppy offensive basketball I have ever watched. Neither team could buy a shot, and the scores looked more like those of high school varsity teams than NBA squads this night. It is truly amazing how badly these two offenses played. The Bobcats shot only 36 percent for the game, but the Nets still managed to one-up them in that department quite handily: they scraped together 31 percent shooting for the night. And if you take out the last quarter and overtime, those percentages would be markedly lower.

In what were essentially Pyhrric performances, Travis Outlaw led the Nets with 21 points, and Stephen Jackson paced the Bobcats with 25. But the Nets’ offensive struggles were so baffling that it is hard to really diagnose them. One thing I know for sure: there was too much backcourt shooting for the Nets (Jordan Farmar and Anthony Morrow combined to shoot 13-of-36) and not enough Brook Lopez. He ended up with 10 field-goal attempts in the game, but precisely zero of those came in the first quarter. I’m not sure if anyone else notices this, but Farmar seems inexplicably afraid to throw the entry pass to Lopez. When he does get an entry pass, it seems like it almost always comes from Morrow or Outlaw. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but there doesn’t seem to be much cohesiveness on the court between those two.

At any rate, the offensive struggles were palpable. It was so bad that, in an apparent attempt to get something going, Avery Johnson played a lineup with Troy Murphy, Derrick Favors, and Johan Petro on the floor all at the same time. What was so bad about it was that, even amid all their nonscoring, those three solid rebounders still managed to look like children compared to Charlotte’s effort on the glass.

The Bobcats managed to haul in an incredible sum of 62 boards for the game, and three starters logged double digits in rebounds: Nazr Mohammed had 11, Gerald Wallace had 13, and Boris Diaw had 16. Speaking of Wallace, he was, to put it conservatively, Superman on defense. The man racked up five blocks, and he was such an unstoppable presence as a help-side defender that layups became basically a nonoption for the Nets. Time and time again, he would come in off his man and swat away an easy attempt that a Net lobbed up at the rim.

However, the Nets defense was just as potent. While some might attribute Charlotte’s struggles to simply missing easy shots, the Nets didn’t let any one player get too hot, and disrupted the shots that were taken: all five Bobcats starters took anywhere from 12 to 14 shots, and none of them made more than six. That’s forcing volume shooters if I’ve ever seen it before.

And had the Nets not played this aggressive defense, this game might have turned out as the most pathetic of the season so far. Still, the Nets found themselves down 64-48 at one point before somehow managing a 12-0 run to cut the gap to four points. While the lead varied from then on, it was the Nets’ clutch-time execution that led them to tie up the game and take it to overtime.

Outlaw and Farmar shot a combined 2-of-13 from beyond the arc from the game, but both of their makes came toward the end of the fourth quarter to keep the Nets in the game. And toward the very end of regulation with the Nets down two points, Outlaw disrupted an inbound pass and got fouled, which sent him to the line, where he hit the game-tying free throws to send it in to overtime.

My friend shot a video of me reacting to this play that is far too embarrassing to put on the internet, but suffice it to say that I was thrilled.

Unfortunately, the Nets came out cold in the overtime period, and after finishing regulation shooting 11-of-11 on field goals and free throws combined, the Nets were helpless to make anything in the extra period. So once more, the Nets lost a close one.

If there is any one thing that stands out about this year’s Nets team compared to last year, it is the drive to stay in the game. Avery Johnson has reinforced that no game is out of reach, and the Nets seem to have taken notice. While it might make for frustrating, nail-biting, down-to-the-wire contests, it is great to see such a ruthless competitive nature.

I recall watching a game between the Nets and Phoenix Suns in December 2006 that went into double overtime. Jason Kidd and Steve Nash went back and forth hitting impossible shot after impossible shot in extra sessions that had more lead changes than some teams have over the course of an entire season. Yes, the Nets ultimately lost that game 161-157. But it was still, by far, the best basketball game I have ever watched. Losses hurt, but good basketball is still good basketball.

By the end of the game, it was clear that the fatigue of all the recent playing was getting to the Nets, and rightfully so. The schedule over the past week or so was brutal, so I can excuse the Nets for this game. Hopefully, though, they will learn from their back-to-back overtime contests and apply what they learned to future games. It’s all about learning right now.

Some more thoughts:

  • It appears the power-forward rotation is not so solidified as once imagined. Kris Humphries played only 22 minutes in the game, and Derrick Favors only 16, while Troy Murphy also managed 22. Granted, Johnson might have been experimenting to find some way for the Nets to get any sort of offense going, but it seems that Murphy has more of a shot to get back in the game-by-game rotation than he did a week ago. His +15 for the game certainly didn’t hurt his chances, even though he only scored 1 point.
  • Stephen Graham might be getting the rotation ax. He played five minutes toward the beginning of the game, during which he missed two layups and two open jump shots. Compounded with his idiotic foul on Jeff Green on Wednesday night, he might have lost his chance to play regularly, which is fine with me.