Thoughts on the Game: Nets are Royally Bucked

AP Photo/Morry Gash
AP Photo/Morry Gash

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I had a dream last night.

The Nets were playing solid, all-around basketball. They were shooting the ball efficiently. They were defending the perimeter. They were rebounding the ball.They were dominating the Milwaukee Bucks to the tune of an 11-point lead. The Nets, in no way, shape, or form resembled a team that had just opened their season on an 11-game losing streak.

Terrence Williams was in my dream. He was taking the ball strong to the hoop, and refusing to settle for long jumpers. He had even converted 8 of 9 shots at one point. He was such a pleasure to watch, compared to Rafer Alston, who couldn’t hit his open jumpers and liked to to turn the ball over with his dumb passes.

Sean Williams was also in my dream. He was disrupting shots and rebounding the ball as Brook Lopez sat on the bench, looking like he just played more than 40 minutes in a game the night before. Yes, in my dream, Sean Williams was a better option than Brook Lopez.

Even Bobby Simmons was in my dream. And he’s never in my dreams unless they’re nightmares. He provided some offensive punch off the bench, including a couple of threes. Wow, I can’t believe I just dreamt about Bobby Simmons.

And of course Chris Doulgas-Roberts was there. He’s one of the few recurring guys in my dreams. He just always seems to bring his A-game there (unless he has the swine flu), scoring points in bunches. He even set another career high in points in my dream.

In non-dreamland, the Nets played their best quarter of the season last night, receiving contributions from some unexpected sources. Unfortunately, the Nets put it all together in the second quarter, before faltering in the third, and then completely falling apart in the fourth during their  loss to the Bucks in Milwaukee last night.

It was one of those nights where I just lost total patience with Lawrence Frank. Down 7 in the first quarter, Frank went with a rotation of Terrence Williams, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Trenton Hassell, Bobby Simmons and Sean Williams, which certainly looked ugly on paper, but it actually produced. The deficit turned into an 11-point Nets lead, as everything seemed to be clicking for them. Terrence Williams was taking the ball aggressively towards the rim, rather than taking three-pointers. Chris Douglas-Roberts was doing his usual thing, and Sean Williams was a rush of energy on the defensive end, and a creator on the offensive end, setting a majority of the picks that got TWill and CDR their shots. I couldn’t even find fault with Bobby Simmons playing the four during this stretch, because it worked. It worked because Rafer Alston was off to another terrible shooting night (1-10) and Brook Lopez looked totally gassed after playing a bulk of the game the night before in New Jersey. He wasn’t doing much offensively, and he was getting totally dominated by Andrew Bogut, who finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds. By the end of the stretch, the unit had put together a +/- of +10.

So to open the second half, rather than ride the hot hand, as untraditional as it may have looked on paper, Frank went back to his starting five. The team responded with just an awful stretch, getting outscored 28-12 in the quarter, and shooting 17 percent in the process. By the time Frank started to reinsert guys like Sean Williams and TWill, all momentum had been lost, and ultimately, so was the game.

In an attempt to be positive, I have to give Chris Douglas-Roberts his due here. In addition to posting another double-double and another career high in points, the guy has just been a total warrior out there, and seems to be taking over as a true leader of this club, in just his second season. The guy has had a lot of doubters, as evidenced by his slip into the second round in the 2008 draft, but I hope this is a guy the Nets plan to keep as part of their core going forward, because his grit and determination (and let’s not forget talent), will look great, once he’s complimented by better all-around players. It amazes me that less than a week ago, he was sick in bed with the H1N1 virus.

So now, Saturday looms very large for the Nets. A showdown with the Knicks, who pulled off a dramatic victory for themselves at home against the Pacers last night. Devin Harris should be back, and maybe Courtney Lee too, which helps. But without a win on Saturday, the Nets are staring at a winless November. And this loss season, all of a sudden could take on new levels of horror.

To relive more of the horror, read more after the jump.

Key Plays

1:39, 1st Quarter:
Sean Williams really is one of those guys that can change the a game without scoring a point. Case in point, with Brook Lopez looking tired and getting pushed around in the post by Andrew Bogut, Lawrence Frank called on Sean Williams. On one of his first plays, Williams fronted Bogut and was able to poke an entry pass out of bounds. Big deal, right? But it was just the first of many little plays that Williams made during a stretch in the first half that temporarily turned the game around for the Nets.

6:06 and 5:36, 2nd Quarter:
Two field goals made by Terrence Williams less than 15 feet from the basket. The first one came on a dribble drive where TWill stopped and popped from 14 feet out, and the second came from about 6-feet out with on a running one-hander.  If Terrence Williams can model his entire offensive game around shots like this, he’s going to be the versatile star some had pegged him to be coming into this season.

8:44, 3rd Quarter: A sequence that epitomizes the third quarter collapse. With the Bucks scoring, and the Nets reeling, after collecting an offensive rebound, CDR attempts a hand-off to Rafer Alston and doesn’t see Brandon Jennings streaking into the picture to intercept. Jennings ends up taking the ball back to the other end for the dunk, and Lawrence Frank calls a timeout. At that point, the Bucks were up by 3, and never really looked back again.

Final Thoughts

  • Something that only writer geeks versed in AP style would understand – I realized that after last night, I was now able to start writing the actual # for the amount of losses the Nets had, rather than spelling it out. I’m looking forward to going back to one, two, three, etc.
  • So typical, the Nets, for the most part, contain Jennings, but killed by Bogut, Carlos Delfino, and Luke Ridnour.
  • Sean Williams finished with a +16 for the evening, far and away the +/- leader for the Nets. Are we still going to argue whether or not he should get more minutes?
  • Do you know who’s going to benefit the most from Devin Harris? Brook Lopez. Book it,
  • After the past two nights, where Rafer Alston couldn’t hit the side of a barn with his jump shot, I laugh when I read interviews that talk about how Rafer could end up helping some veteran, playoff-bound team this season if he gets traded. I mean, really. Who wants a guy shooting 1-10 and turning the ball over more than he makes an assist?
  • For a brief spurt in the third, the Nets were riding Trenton Hassell in the post, and it was working. So they naturally abandoned it.
  • If the Net don’t win on Saturday, I’ll start to officially count down how many more losses they need to match the NBA record 9-73, 72-73 76ers.