Thoughts on the Game: Nets’ Best Not Enough

For most of the game, especially in the third quarter, I was waiting for a collapse that never came.  The Nets kept the Sixers close throughout, leading most of the second half.  A half where the Nets shortened their bench to 5 players.  After Courtney Lee got hurt, the already thin Nets were left with a 7 man rotation for the rest of the half.  The Nets were gassed late in the 4th quarter, right around when the Sixers made their run.  After Courtney Lee left with a strained left (I didn’t know there was a left and a right) groin, I was expecting this team to fold, but they didn’t.  They actually played pretty well for the most part.  They were just literally out-manned last night.

When the players play well and this team still loses, Lawrence Frank usually ends up being my whipping boy.  I can’t even do that!  For the first time this year (and in recent memory, in my opinion) Lawrence Frank seemed to push all of the right buttons.  When I heard Trenton Hassell was starting, I was none too pleased, but you know what, it worked.  He put up 17 points on 8-13 shooting.  The reason Terrence Williams didn’t start was because Frank wanted him backing up Rafer Alston at the point, and you know what that worked too.  Terrence finished with only 6 points, but he did gather 9 assists.  Hell, even Bobby Simmons played well, hitting two threes and getting a few boards.  Even Lawrence Frank’s feel for the game was spot on, for example, with 5 minutes left in the first half, the Nets brought out a zone, and the first possession lead to a 24-second shot clock violation, and in the final 5 minutes, all the Sixers got was a lay-up on a broken play, and a three on a fast break.  Two quick nitpicky type things though.  With the Nets playing the Celtics tonight, I would have liked to see Sean Williams get some minutes last night, just to keep Brook fresh for tonight.  Also, the final play wasn’t the prettiest thing, but when your best option from three is Bobby Simmons, you don’t have much to work with.

So if it isn’t the players or the coach, who is to blame for this loss?  Nobody at all.  It is funny to say, but the Nets played as good as they are going to with how short-handed they are, and it just wasn’t good enough.  With three guys playing  who Nets’ fans didn’t really factor into the rotation when the season started playing significant minutes (Bobby Simmons, Eduardo Najera, and Trenton Hassell) I think their effort was fantastic.  I know at 0-6, it isn’t the time to start calling for moral victories, but I guess that is what I am doing at this point.

Key Plays:

Again, I don’t know how Mark does it, but I wasn’t able to keep track of exact times, but I will be close.

10 seconds left, 1st quarter:

With the shotclock off, Terrence Williams was dribbling out the ball holding for the last shot.  He started his drive too soon, missed a lay-up with about 5 seconds left, and it led to a fast break and a made three for Lou Williams.  While the basket didn’t count (the ball was still in his fingertips as he let it go), it shows us that Terrence Williams is still a rookie and he is still learning.

5 minutes left, 2nd quarter:

Coming out of a Sixers’ timeout, Lawrence Frank called a zone, and it worked.  The Sixers looked completely confused by it, and the result was a 24 second violation.

2:00 left, 4th quarter:

With the game tied, the Nets had the ball, and they were looking to take the lead.  Rafer Alston came off a ball screen and was quickly double teamed.  It was something that the Sixers saved for late in the game, and it worked.  Rafer got trapped, tried to get rid of the ball, but it was deflected off of his shoulder out of bounds.

1:30 left, 4th quarter:

With the game tied at 92, the Sixers were bringing the ball up, and they went into their set.  I forget who was covering Iguodala, but he slagged off of him a little too far, and a cross-court skip found Iguodala, and he drilled a three.

23 seconds left, 4th quarter:

Down 2 and with only 7 guys in the rotation, it was obvious that the Nets wanted to go for the win and try to end the game then and there.  The result was a pick and pop involving Eduardo Najera and Rafer Alston.  Rafer came off the screen and attacked the basket forcing help.  Najera was actually open on the pop, but as Rafer tried to make the pass, it got deflected.  Najera showed great hustle to get to the lose ball, and he ended up with a great look right at the rim.  The ball rolled around the rim and fell out.  A visual interpretation of the Nets season.

5 seconds left, 4th quarter:

With 5 seconds left, the Nets were down by three and they needed a 3-ball to send the game in overtime.  The resulting play was a series of dribble handoffs that the Sixers switched at every point.  Terrence Williams wound up with the ball, and he couldn’t get a shot up as the buzzer sounded.

Final Thoughts:

  • For the first time all season, the third quarter wasn’t a problem for the Nets.  In fact, they went on a 22-9 run during the period.
  • That last play really shows you how much Brian Hill is missed around these parts.  While the Nets didn’t have the best line-up to hit a game winning/tying 3, Brian Hill may have came up with some more creative play calling.
  • Elton Brand got old real quick huh?
  • The doubles didn’t really bother Brook last night, and in my opinion the reason was because the Nets were able to finally hit some outside jumpers.
  • Iguodala had one of the best dunks of the short season, dunking on a helpless Terrence Williams.  It was pretty fierce.
  • At one point, Terrence Williams and Lou Williams were both matched-up against each other playing the point.  Goes to show you how flexible each of those guys are since one was drafted to be a SF while the other was drafted to play SG.
  • Courtney Lee got hurt performing a crossover dribble.  He didn’t get hit or anything like that, just got hurt.  Out of all the teams in the NBA, the Nets probably would have been hurt the most by injuries, and that is what is happening.
  • Lets end this on a positive note.  I mentioned it in the Daily Dime chat, but Avery Johnson said during ESPN’s pregame show that he thinks LeBron and a guy like Joe Johnson will be making their way to the Nets.  He has no inside information or anything like that, just said it was a gut feeling.

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