In recent weeks, the injury-ravaged Nets have done a pretty good impression of a scrappy, hard-luck team that was falling just short of success. Last night, their play from the opening tip was more reminiscent of the reality – this is a lousy team that’s not going to beat anybody in this league while Devin Harris, Courtney Lee and others sit on the bench while guys like Rafer Alston, Trenton Hassell and Bobby Simmons are forced into playing big minutes.
On paper, the Indiana Pacers may have looked like a beatable team coming into New Jersey, but even while they weren’t clicking on all cylinders last night, they never really ever lost control of the game, and they held the Nets in check when in counted. Two 7-0 runs to open the first and third quarters, helped get Indiana out to a decent cushion, and a 31-point first quarter had the Nets reeling, who once again only suited up eight players for the game.
Rather than coming out strong, as they’ve done against teams like the Celtics, Magic, Heat and 76ers, the Nets came out against Indiana sluggish and sloppy. Some missed layups and turnovers by the Nets led to an 11-2 lead by the Pacers in the early going. While the Nets were able to close within four in the second half, the Pacers led throughout.
That may be tough to swallow considering Danny Granger had a relatively quiet night, scoring 22 points, but on 6-16 shooting and the Pacers overall shot only 39 percent, but Indiana’s big man, Roy Hibbert was a force down low all night, scoring 19 points on 9-11 shooting, grabbing 10 rebounds, and blocking 3 shots. Compare that to Brook Lopez, who had more points (26) and rebounds (16), but needed 26 shots, including 10 of them outside of 15-feet (sinking three) to make it happen.
This was one of those nights where you really start to wonder when the Nets can get Devin Harris back. Not just because Harris is such a dynamic player, especially on the offensive end, but because Rafer Alston is such a liability sometimes. Yes, he had 14 points, 7 rebounds and 4 steals, but the numbers that matter most to me are the 2-12 shooting and the 5 turnovers. Three of those turnovers came in the games opening minutes and put the team, which is struggling to score on even its best nights, in an early hole. There was even one point around the 4:07 mark in third quarter where it looked like Chris Douglas-Roberts was shaking his head in disgust after another Rafer pass that went nowhere good.
Fortunately for the Nets, CDR looks like he’s back on the offensive side, and not a moment too soon. As the Nets struggled to score very early in the first, I was wondering how this team would turn it around when at around the 7:13 mark, Douglas-Roberts attacked the basket for the first time for two points. CDR led all scorers with 27 points, though even while acknowledging the positive, it’s worth noting that it took him 25 shots to get there. CDR did grab 12 rebounds, for his first career double-double.
After his great Saturday night, Sean Williams saw 13 minutes of game time before picking up three fouls. But it was Bobby Simmons playing the four in the game’s closing minutes and while Lawrence Frank may consider him a good offensive player, he finished with 3 measly points on 1-4 shooting.
Personally I’m tired of speculating when the first win is going to come for this team. It wouldn’t surprise me if it’s Saturday, not just because it’s the Knicks, but because Devin Harris and Courtney Lee are expected to be back by then. At this point, I think that’s just what it’s going to take. Talent. Real talent. Until then I believe this team is as bad as their record says they are.
Let’s look a few more plays after the jump.
1:58, 4th Quarter: There was a reason why I made sure to say that CDR was back on the “offensive” side, because it looked like he missed a key defensive assignment here that ended up sealing the game for the Pacers. With defenders collapsing on Danny Granger at the top of the key, Earl Watson was wide open in the left corner. CDR was cheating near the basket and reacted to Granger’s pass to Watson way too late and wasn’t even close to challenging the shot. Compare that to Saturday night when Quentin Richardson drilled a three with Douglas-Roberts up in his face. Isn’t basketball fun?
5:18, 4th Quarter: With the Nets reeling and down 12, the team comes out of a timeout, and Brook Lopez responds by missing a 19-foot jumper from the top of the key. Why single out this play? With the Nets desperately needing a bucket, why is Brook Lopez shooting baskets 19-feet away from the basket. It was cute when Brook started draining those outside jumpers earlier this season, but the sooner the coaching staff gets him back closer to the basket, the better off he and the Nets will be.
9:01, 4th Quarter: Terrence Williams had just subbed in and on the team’s next possession, he looked out of control handling the ball and ended up tossing up a shot at the basket, that was promptly rejected, in emphatic fashion, by Roy Hibbert. It raised an interesting question for me that I’m sure will not win me many fans. When the Nets return to full strength in the coming weeks, are they a better team with Terrence Williams on the bench, honing his game in practice? Last night he put up a +/- of -17 in 23 minutes. That’s pretty awful.
- Like it isn’t bad enough that Roy Hibbert has suddenly become a force in the East, but does he have to make an “O” face after every shot?
- As the season goes on, Josh Boone looks more and more afraid to do anything of note on the offensive side. So much for taking advantage of playing time.
- For the second game in a row, Sean Williams absolutely hammered Brook Lopez while jumping for a rebound. These are the plays, I’m sure, they earn him time n the bench.
- With about 9:12 left in the fourth, Bobby Simmons attempted and missed an ugly reverse lay-up and I started thinking, wow, this team is counting on Bobby Simmons to score right now.
- Seriously, Dahntay Jones is a player now? Go figure.
- I find myself being very critical of Brook Lopez these days. I guess 17 and 8 just isn’t good enough for me.