At the risk of overstating things, last night’s 107-101 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies could be one of those games that will really stand out at season’s ends if the Nets fail to get to 10 wins and avoid infamy. Not so much because this looked like much of a win on paper for the Nets, especially the way they played in the first half when they were down 67-51 at halftime. But because Memphis all but giftwrapped an opportunity for the Nets to steal win #8 by playing about as bad as an NBA team could play in the second half.
After looking unstoppable in the first half, the Grizzlies laid an egg in the third, shooting 29 percent and earning hearty boos from the Memphis faithful. But that’s where the “what ifs” come to play. The Nets pulled as close as two points when Devin Harris hit a step back 17-footer with about 11 seconds left in the third. But the Nets had the first of their many breakdowns when they fouled Marcus Williams with just a bit too much time left on the clock, allowing Sam Young enough time to get a clean look at the rim to swing the momentum back towards Memphis.
In the fourth, the Grizzlies weren’t nearly as bad, and the Nets weren’t nearly as good, but New Jersey still had their chances. With Yi Jianlian out with a knee injury and Josh Boone seemingly dinged up in a play in the third, the Nets went with a small lineup for a few minutes and settled for too many perimeter shots. And when they still managed to grab a few breaks, like when Kris Humphries intercepted a bad pass from Williams under the rim with about 7 minutes left and the Nets trailing by four, Hump rushed the putback and missed – another opportunity gone.
But the biggest “what if” was regarding the offensive play of the Nets frontcourt – namely Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries. Lopez looked out of it early, and was getting played tough by Marc Gasol (and had the bloody scratches to prove it – in job refs). But he mostly a non-factor from the field finishing 3-10, though he was fairly effective in the give-and-go fame with Devin Harris and Courtney Lee, tallying up 6 assists.
And with a lot of Nets fans scratching their heads as to why Boone got the call over Hump at the starting four, Humphries did very little, if anything to distinguish himself offensively. In addition to shooting 1-7, he just looked tentative out there, getting the ball 16-18 feet away from the basket and knowing he shouldn’t be shooting those shots, but not making a strong enough move to the hoop to either to a higher percentage shot or draw a foul. The saving grace for Hump came on the defensive end, where he blocked three shots and drew an offensive foul when Sam Young pushed Hump away while taking what looked to be, an easy lay-up with 6:37 left in the fourth and the Grizzlies hanging on to a four point lead. But again, the Nets were never able to take the next step. Terrence Williams had a layup attempt blocked by Young and a DeMarre Carroll layup later put the Grizzlies back up by 6.
Final thoughts after the jump:
- Is Courtney Lee from another planet right now, or what? With 30 points on 13-20 shooting, I guess my biggest complaint was he shot too many threes (2-6). But he looks like he’s finally starting to put his offensive game together, and he’s now starting to resemble that high ceiling two-guard everyone was praising after last year’s NBA Finals. While I realize this is not a popular thing to say this season, but some credit has to be given to Kiki Vandeweghe, who clearly believed in Lee and wanted to give him as many chances as possible to succeed. Some fans were saying earlier this season that Chris Douglas-Roberts or Terrence Williams should have received the chances Lee did, but Kiki obviously saw something in Lee that he didn’t initially with the other two (and still doesn’t with CDR), and it’s paying off for the Nets. When Lee is shooting the way he has been lately, combined with Devin Harris playing better and Brook Lopez playing like Brook Lopez, the Nets no longer resemble the worst team in basketball. I know that’s not that big of a deal, but baby steps people.
- Speaking of CDR, if he’s going to mope and groan about playing time, he should do simple things better like box out. When DeMarre Carroll swooped in out of nowhere to grab an offensive board and a putback to put the Grizzlies up by 6 in the fourth quarter, that was totally CDR’s responsibility to put a body on Carroll, but he seemed more concerned with trying to streak down the court to get into the offense quickly. He did make a nice play in the first half, when he broke up a sure alley-oop headed towards Marc Gasol.
- After his second strong offensive game in a row, I officially apologize to Devin Harris for speculating that he may be dealing with another wrist injury.
- I’ll probably do a statistical post to back myself up in the near future, but I’m convinced that Terrence Williams is the best rebounder on this team right now.
- I don’t know what it is, but I just hate small-ball and it seems like Kiki loves it. I thought it was just a Lawrence Frank thing, but it’s not. With a minute left in the first, Kiki went with a small lineup with Jarvis Hayes at the four and Hump in the middle, and the Grizzlies proceeded to grab 3 offensive boards in that 6o second stretch.
- After attempting 23 three-pointers last night, I think the Nets needed to be reminded that that’s not really a part of their game, their performance against the Knicks on Saturday be damned.
- If Kiki is going to give Josh Boone the nod in Yi’s absence, does Trenton Hassell still have to keep starting? Or better yet, why does he have to start the second half with the rest of the starters?