Thoughts on the Game: Rough Third Sinks Nets

Thoughts on the Game: Rough Third Sinks Nets

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After Friday’s heartbreaking loss to the New Orleans Hornets, I wondered  whether or not the Nets would be able to build on the game, despite the demoralizing outcome.

Results are inconclusive after last night’s 97-85 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. The Devin Harris-less Nets certainly looked good enough out of the gate, leading 22-20 after one and only trailing 49-47 at the half – which is a positive sign. But the Spurs are just so good, it was only a matter of time before they went on a run that was going to put the Nets in a legitimate hole. That run came in the third quarter, when the Spurs opened a double-digit lead and outscored the Nets 28-18, using a 14-4 run for most of the damage.

The Nets did a good enough job of not letting the Spurs pull full away in the fourth, though Tony Park and Tim Duncan were one the bench for most of the period. Duncan looked like he could have outrebounded the Nets by himself if he was out on the floor long enough, grabbing 17 rebounds in 27 minutes.

What the Nets weren’t able to build on from Friday was their three point shooting and rebounding. The Nets were only 3-14 from long range, after going 9-17 against New Orleans. Courtney Lee looked especially off, following up his 28 point effort with four points on 2-11 shooting. Lee truly is an enigma. He did a great job dribbling around screens and getting himself open looks from about 15-feet. His form looks fine to the naked eye. The arc of his shot looks perfect coming out of his hands. But the shots aren’t falling. And the Nets are proving that they’re not going to be in position to steal games like yesterday’s without a Courtney Lee or a Keyon Dooling hitting threes with consistency, drawing defenses away from the paint where Brook Lopez and Yi Jianlian live.

As for the rebounding, this was just a brutal game for the Nets. Perhaps the play that best summed up the Nets struggled on the glass came towards the end of third quarter. Trailing 75-65 with a chance to cut the lead to single digits headed in the fourth quarter, the Spurs were able to get to the ball three times on the offensive end, before Manu Ginobli slashed through the paint and tomahawked the ball.

Fortunately the Nets saw the good Brook Lopez last night, while treating him like the team’s number option on offense. Brook was active around the post the entire game, dominating the undersized Dejuan Blair early, and still maintaining his momentum even after Duncan was switched over to guard him. Lopez ended with 28 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocks, and was a solid 10-17 from the field. He got consistent touches throughout the game, which is always a good thing to see considering Brook’s usual disappearing acts in the fourth quarter.

More thoughts after the jump.

  • So these are the games that Yi Jianlian needs to take a step back. He started out 0-7 and didn’t get much better as the night went on, shooting 4-17 overall. Surprisingly, Yi was still able to finish with 16 points because he got to the free throw line 10 times and sank 8. So if Yi forced a few less shots, but continued to be aggressive in going to the rim and getting fouled, he could have maybe finished with a 4-10 night, and those 7 shots could have gone to either Brook Lopez or Chris Douglas-Roberts. Yi is currently in a groove where he doesn’t need to get 17 shots a game to still get 15-20 points. If he can just learn to be more efficient on night’s when he’s off, that’s when he’s going to become a special player in the league.
  • I got to watch Dejuan Blair for the first time tonight – as a guy who was an early pick to go to the Nets in this past draft before most of the league became panicked by the state of his knees, I can see why he’s getting playing time in San Antonio. Blair didn’t have a particularly good night, going 2-6 for 4 points in 15 minutes, but he was very aggressive on both ends around the rim and he’s definitely a scrappy, hard-nosed player that would have fit in well with the too-soft-too-often Nets.
  • Chris Quinn got into the game for 11 minutes because of Devin Harris’ injury, and I thought he looked pretty competent out there backing up Dooling. I hope once he learns Kiki and Del Harris’ system better, they start using him a bit more so we can see if he’s a legitimate backup PG at this stage of his career.
  • Speaking of Devin, I don’t think the Nets really missed him out there, especially the way he’s been playing the past week. Devo now has tendinitis in his wrist, which at least justified his awful shooting the past three games. And maybe this is an explanation for his poor season overall. Still, thinking longer term, Devin’s propensity to get injured is a major strike against him as a player. What good is a high-scoring PG when he’s never healthy for long enough stretches to carry his team?
  • The Nets were pretty solid defensively in the first quarter, holding the Spurs to 31.6 shooting. At around the 4:40 mark in the first, I was very impressed by how the Nets were able to rotate as the Spurs tried to move the ball from side to side. Eventually Chris Douglas-Roberts anticipated the pass and got the steal. Compare that to around the 8:40 mark in the third, where the Nets were active, but a little too jumpy and overcommitted on their rotations, which opened up Blair down low for a baseline dunk.

  • Watching Josh Boone attempt 12 foot jumpers along the baseline makes me long for 15 minutes of Kris Humphries on Wednesday night against the Celtics.
  • You know what I love about Greg Popovich, besides everything? How whenever there’s a single defensive breakdown by the Spurs, he immediately calls a time out. He did it twice last night and it just really demonstrates his priorities as a head coach.
  • Richard Jefferson was one of my all-time favorite Nets and I thought he had the offensive ability to be the number one option of this team before Vince Carter was brought over. But Jefferson just doesn’t look like that player anymore, though he’s playing for a winner now, so I guess it doesn’t bother him all that much.