Thoughts on the Game: Nets 8 Skid to 0-8

Wall StreetYou would think after starting the season with eight consecutive losses these games would start to hurt less, but that’s just not the case. The Nets, who for the second straight game dressed only eight guys, are playing with so much heart right now. Unfortunately, there’s just too much talent sitting on the bench in suits, a fact that came back to haunt this team as they had three chances with less than 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter to either tie or take the lead against the Philadelphia Sixers but they couldn’t get a clutch bucket when they needed it.

Initially, the Nets had the right idea. With 21.7 seconds to go and down by 1, they got the ball to Brook Lopez who was pushed a bit out of the post by Samuel Dalembert, but was in single coverage. Lopez made a pretty spin move on Dalembert to get to the hoop but missed the shot. Replays showed that Brook was hit on the arm, but there was no call. Lopez was irate.

Despite the non-call, Lopez had another terrific game last night, and seems to be settling into quite a groove, after scuffling a bit when Devin Harris and some of the other starters first started to drop after the second game of the season. If 23 points and 14 rebounds wasn’t impressive enough, Lopez showed off his expanding repertoire of offensive moves. In a play that was aptly described by Netsbasketball on Twitter as “terrifying and amazing at the same time,” with about 3 minutes to go in the game, Lopez executed a dribble drive that would have made Devin Harris proud. Now let’s never see that move again Brook okay?

More on the game after the jump:

Now, back to those closing possessions. Terrence Williams, you’re up. TWill got his first NBA start tonight and the game was a bit of a microcosm of what his season has been so far. He scored 10 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, but was only 5-15 from the floor, with his most critical miss with about 5 seconds to go, and the Nets down two. Williams went for the three (though his foot was actually on the line) and the shot looked long the moment the ball left his hands – rookie jitters probably. Thaddeus Young ended up with the rebound, though after missing one free throw, the Nets STILL had a chance to tie this game, as if these eight guys needed any more excitement for the evening.

It’s hard to describe the final possession of the game, in part because it was so inexplicable. Then again, there was a bit of history repeating itself there when you consider how Friday’s game against the Sixers ended  with no shot and turnover. This time around, Rafer Alston inbounded the ball and Bobby Simmons, who was making a cut from the low post to the top of the key. Down three, what Simmons was doing makes sense, as he’s really the only one of the court that has any ability hitting the three-ball in close and late situations. Instead, Rafer threw the ball into the post, turning the ball over since there wasn’t a white jersey in sight.

It’s so easy to kill Alston in these situations. Both Sebastian and I were warned of his roller-coaster ways by a number Orlando Magic bloggers after the trade in June. Still, Alston was the one with 21.7 seconds stepping into the lane and drawing a charge on Andre Iguodala. If the Nets were able to get a basket at any point after that, it would have been the play-of-the-game.

So with all that said, this is where things start to get a bit scary for the Nets. You’re getting unexpected contributions from guys like Trenton Hassell, Eduardo Najera and Bobby Simmons and still losing games against teams who are giving you every opportunity to win. How much longer can we keep expecting that to happen? The team flies south to Florida for a back-to-back against the Magic and the Heat. They maybe get a body or two back for those two games, but it’s questionable. The Nets may lead the league in heart right now, but 0-10 seems a near-certainty unless they start getting some talent back on the court.

Key Plays

We touched upon the big, big plays in the 4th tonight, but let’s look at a couple of ones that might be off your radar.

6:00, 1st Quarter:
It’s probably silly for me to pick on Trenton Hassell considering in ordinary circumstances, he would have been inactive for most of these games this season, but here’s an example of what happens when career backups (and non-shooters) get extended minutes. Rafer Alston gets into the paint, breaking down the defense and kicks it out to Hassell in the corner for a wide open 18-footer. Hassell bricks it. These are shots that Nets just have to make to being competitive right now, and despite all the heart and toughness, they’re ultimately losing games because they can’t hit these kinds of shots.

2:50, 2nd Quarter: Great bit of court vision by Terrence Williams, who throws a full court pass to Brook Lopez who gets hammered underneath the room for two free throws. Even better, great running the floor by Brook.

6:16, 4th Quarter: In a play I thought was indicative of the tide changing for the Nets, Bobby Simmons missed a three, but Brook Lopez was waiting under the basket for the putback to put the Nets up by 2.

Final Thoughts:

  • Josh Boone provided a big boost defensively in the second hand, but watching him shake his hand in pain after every play was a bit alarming. I know Sean Williams can’t be trusted, but you’re telling me he couldn’t have seen any minutes in this situation?
  • Just another note on Terrence Williams. He hit a couple of those foot-on-the-line long twos tonight, and his final shot attempt, was another. Know where your feet are rook.
  • Another nice evening from Eduardo Najera, who only saw 19 minutes of action, but ended up with a +9 and a couple of nice heads up plays.
  • Finally, I accept that corporate shilling is a part of sports, but if I heard Ian Eagle or Jim Spanarkel on YES mention Klondike ice cream bars one more time, I was going to bunch the television.

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