Last Friday the Nets went to Indiana and got handily beaten by the Pacers, giving up 124 points in the process. So it would be logical to think that the team would be looking for a little bit of revenge, especially at home yesterday afternoon. But what happened instead? The Pacers got out to an early lead, were up double digits at halftime and the Nets got blown out of the building again, but this time in front of their home fans. It was another disheartening performance where the Nets didn’t show much fight (other than a 2-minute stretch in the third quarter). The inconsistency from this team has become so rampant that it’s just time to call them what they are: a bad NBA basketball team.
Before the game I talked about needing to see some consistency from the starters. And there was some consistency yesterday, in that they were all consistently bad. Nobody in the starting lineup shot over 50 percent, and Brook Lopez and Devin Harris combined to shoot just 9-26 from the field. The Nets struggled as a whole shooting the ball against Indiana, especially from downtown and the foul line. They made 4 of 16 three’s and shot 57.1 percent from the charity stripe. That’s not going to get it done.
What is there to say about the first half? The Nets came out and showed no defensive intensity, gave up 33 in the 1st quarter and then their offense faltered late in the 2nd. Paul George got whatever he wanted and the Nets were especially bad in transition. George got out on the run for numerous dunks and was able to crash the offensive boards effectively as well. After shooting about 50 percent midway through the half, the team ended shooting just 43.8 percent from the field. And there was one major factor that is was an awful sign from the first half. The team’s leading scorer was Johan Petro. I don’t need to say anything else.
As it’s become clear this team isn’t going anywhere, the one thing I’d like to see is some development from the young guys (cough, cough Derrick Favors). Well the rook has continued his inconsistency and he might as well have not even been out there yesterday. He had just 2 points and 3 boards and had his most successful stat in the personal fouls column, where he had four. If I were Avery Johnson I’d start playing him upwards of 25 minutes per game. If he’s going to make mistakes, why not let it be now when the season is basically over already?
Throughout the game one of the key issues for the Nets was controlling the defensive glass, and assistant coach Sam Mitchell spoke to that going into the locker room at halftime. The team had trouble rebounding out of the zone all day and it was a major factor on defense. But it’s hard to get on Avery for this one, because frankly against an athletic team like the Pacers, I don’t know if the Nets can play man effectively. Before the season we all talked about the team needing one of their swingmen to step up, both on offense and defense. Well that hasn’t happened, and that’s why opposing stars have their way with the Nets.
After trailing by 13 at halftime, the Pacers quickly got out to a 17-point lead in the third. But then I saw easily the most positive thing to take away from this game, and that was the effort of Devin Harris. For a two-three minute stretch in the 3rd, the Nets floor general forced the issue on offense, got some steals on defense and was able to almost singlehandedly cut the lead to 9. But he couldn’t do it alone, and the lead was back up to 14 for Indiana at the end of the third.
Bad teams seem to have an uncanny ability to make ordinary players look extraordinary and the Nets certainly accomplished that today with Paul George and Dahntay Jones. While George is still young and could develop into a very good player, Jones is a journeyman that has been known as a defensive specialist. Yesterday the two combined for 32 points and showed constant energy on the floor.
The one thing I will give Avery Johnson credit for with this team is his ability to keep them together and make them a cohesive unit. Anyone can easily see this team likes playing with each other. The biggest example of that from yesterday was at the end of the third quarter, when the Nets were able to block a shot to keep the lead at 14. The entire bench was up and supporting the guys on the floor. I realize this is a small thing and in the end wins are all that matter in professional sports, but there are plenty of teams that would have checked out by this time in the season.
It was yet another brutal game to watch for Nets fans and the team is now 15-37 with just 30 games remaining. They have some talent but have no consistency whatsoever, and have proven to be a very poor team through their first 52 games. Next up is the Hornets on Wednesday night, who are 12 games over .500 and have one of the best players in the NBA in CP3.