AP Photo/Matt Slocum
A week ago, I made a plea on this site that despite whatever their record ends up being, the Nets are in no way the worst team in NBA history. After last night’s game, I might want to rescind those comments.
So is the life of a beaten down, albeit, devoted follower on the 2009-10 New Jersey Nets. A four game west coast road trip last week where the Nets lost all of those games, but were highly competitive in every single one, provided a glimmer of hope that the 9-73 mark set by the 72-73 Sixers would be safe. I was comfortable that the Nets were going to find a way to win at least three of their last 16 games, maybe even a few more, to distance themselves from any all-time records.
Then there was Tuesday night’s game against Atlanta. Sure, it was a lackluster effort for the Nets, who can’t afford to sleepwalk against anyone, but a case could be made that the Hawks are a very good team and the Nets were without Devin Harris. I don’t necessarily agree with that case – I think the Nets should be playing every game with absolute urgency – but I was willing to look past Tuesday if the Nets took care of business against a struggling Sixers team the next night. They didn’t. They looked just as flat early-on, and even after a second-half surge that was captained by Kiki Vandeweghe’s forgotten sixth man, Chris Douglas-Roberts, the Nets were never even remotely close to overtaking a team that had lost five in a row headed into Wednesday and was missing a slew of key players themselves.
At the risk of being accused of copping out of my recapping responsibilities, I must admit it’s getting harder and harder to think of new and creative ways to break down the obvious – the Nets stink. With their game against Dallas last week being an outlier, the Nets continue to fall behind early because they don’t do simple things like get back on defense and guard the perimeter. Meanwhile, on offense, the Nets settle for way too many low percentage shots and don’t take advantage of the fact that they have one of the best post-up centers in basketball on their roster. The Sixers shot more than 66 percent in the first quarter, and went on to shoot 56 percent from the game. At one point in the second quarter, the Nets had only two fast break points while the Sixers were in double-digits. Overall, the Nets were outscored 22-10 on the fast break and 52-34 on points in the paint.
Just look at the shooting percentages of some key players to get a sense for all of the settling that’s going on. Courtney Lee, 1-8; Terrence Williams 4-16; Brook Lopez 2-9. The Nets needed big games from all three of these games, and got one from none. Major props for CDR’s 23 points on 9-15, probably his best game in more than two months, but like Josh Boone’s 13 point, 20 rebound effort from Tuesday, it was all nullified by the lack of offensive and defensive support from the rest of the roster. Lopez didn’t attempt one single FG from the blocks and took jumpers on five of them. I understand that the rigors of the long season are starting to wear on Lopez, but if he can’t be even somewhat functional when he’s on the floor, then maybe Kiki needs to rest him for a game. I would have loved to see Terrence Williams to seize his opportunity after getting the starting nod, but it felt like a TWill game from November – complete with long jumpers, sloppy passes, and missed defensive assignments. Was Williams even aware that in Andre Iguodala, he was responsible for guarding the one guy on this Philly roster that can consistently kill you? Yet AI had a phenomenal game scoring 20 points and collecting 8 assists.
Within the first two minutes of the third quarter, Josh Boone received a great pass from Keyon Dooling that left him wide alone under the basket. In typical Boone fashion, he chose to attempt to bank a layup home rather than play above the rim and dunk the ball. He missed the shot. Is there a better analogy for this game? A struggling team, right for the picking. The Nets had a wide-open dunk here and blew it. Now, I’m not so certain if they’re going to get many more opportunities.