All season long, the Nets have been unable to put together a complete basketball game. The past two games that the Nets was an example of this trend killing the Nets. On Sunday against the Grizzlies, the Nets outscored Memphis 58-47 in the first half, but there were outscored 57-36 in the second for a 10 point loss. Last night, it was the exact opposite, the Blazers started the game on fire (which was something that I was worried about going in) taking a 56-37 halftime lead. In that first half, the Nets shot an awful 36.1%. The second half was a totally different story with the Nets playing good defense, smart offense, and most importantly they were hitting shots (they outscored the Blazers 56-46 in the second half). The Nets shot 21-33 for the half (63.6%), and that is with them missing 7 out of their 9 shots.
The biggest problem for the Nets (and it has been a problem since Vince Carter left) is that they can’t close out games. This is because they don’t have a closer. They don’t have a guy you can just give the ball to and say “here, win the game please?” We’ve known this for a while, but I think it really was apparent last night because you saw what the Brandon Roy did for the Blazers. He put that team on his back, he played incredible in that final quarter. The Nets on the other hand have a few nice scorers, but nobody who can put the team on their back for an entire quarter. The 4th quarter against the Blazers was a perfect example. Courtney Lee started the quarter on fire, but he needed a break. Devin Harris picked up the slack and attacked the basket strong. In those final 3 minutes though, neither of them could get anything going. Yes, we have Brook Lopez, but your go-to guy late in games can’t be someone who needs to rely on other people to get him the ball. It just doesn’t happen. Think about all the “clutch guys” in the league’s history. Very few of them have been centers and that is why.
Speaking of the trio of Devin Harris, Brook Lopez, and Courtney Lee; they put up their best game (combined) of the year. They scored a total of 73 points on 26-48 (54.1%) shooting, including 17-18 (94.4%) from the line. Now if you have 3 guys shoot over 50% and score 73 points, you should normally get the win if just another person or two would show up. That didn’t happen last night. The other 7 Nets that played scored 20 points on 8-21 (38%) shooting, including 2-3 from the line. This is the other big problem for the Nets. They don’t have that reserve player (shoot, some games they don’t even have that 3rd scorer) who will consistently get you those 10 to 15 points a game that will get you over the top (Oh and before we get comment after comment about CDR being that guy, he’s not playing enough right now to be that guy, so there is no reason to talk about him).
A few more thoughts after the jump
- Trenton Hassell was only 1-2 from the field for 2 points in his 32 minutes, but he did play a very nice game and did as good a job as you can do on a guy like Brandon Roy late in the game. Hassell made Roy work for his baskets, and that is the best you can ask for when talking about the league’s premier players. In fact on two possessions late, Hassell was able to keep Roy from touching the ball. Unfortunately on one of those Andre Miller knocked down a three pointer. Makes sense, since he was a 20% shooter (12-60 on the year) before that shot. A little surprised that Lee didn’t match up with Roy, but I guess the Nets coaching staff was worried about Lee getting worked in the post, and that does make sense.
- After all that talk about CDR being in the rotation (and all the space he took up in yesterday’s columns) he ended up only playing 13 minutes. He did hit one very big three in the fourth, but followed that up by fouling Brandon Roy while shooting a three a few plays later. That was the end of his night.
- On the Nets biggest possession of the night, Devin Harris rushed a three that was an airball. The ball then kicked around and Brook dove for it and got his hands on it. It then squirted away as the shot-clock expired. That 24 seconds summed up the season perfectly.
- The Nets have finally gotten over their fear of the lane in the fourth quarter. Devin was attacking, Courtney was attacking. I know we lost the game, but seeing the Nets attack in the fourth quarter was really nice to see.
- I know it sounds funny but I am glad this game happened the way it did (not the loss part obviously). The Nets could have been blown out going into games with the Celtics and Cavs. That wouldn’t be pretty. I know we are well beyond moral victories at this point in the season, but hey, the Nets do have some momentum going into a game with Boston (who might be without Paul Pierce and they are definitely without Eddie House who won the Celtics the game last time they played)
- Kiki seems to be getting the hang of substitutions too. Devin Harris had 4 fouls in the first half, yet Kiki was able to get him 35 minutes. Also, Courtney Lee went off in the fourth, but Kiki had to rest him. He took him out about a minute before the 6-minute media timeout, and he re-entered after that timeout. It was only like 2 minutes of game time, but it was about 5-10 minutes of real time. Kiki stole a lot of rest for Courtney, it was unfortunate that it couldn’t pay off tonight.