It’s hard to argue with the Nets effort and execution last night against the Suns, but the result is always what matters. They had a big lead in the third quarter and early in the fourth, but they couldn’t close and struggled offensively through parts of the final period. This was a tough loss against a team they should have beaten, but the one positive thing that should come out of this one is that the Nets need to bring this effort every night. They’ve shown they’re capable of it and they have to start doing it.
Sure I could have chosen a different picture to go with this game recap but it just seemed appropriate to give some props to the two Lopez brothers. It’s safe to say that Brook got the better of Robin in this game, but let’s be honest, Brook is just a better player. Robin has certainly developed his offensive game but Brook’s post moves are much more refined. He actually had a decent rebounding night as well, amazingly coming close to the 10 boards Avery Johnson says he dreams about him getting. However the lasting image of Brook in this game will be of him sitting on the bench, seemingly pouting over Avery’s decision not to play him, but I’ll touch on that more below.
One of the things I wanted to keep an eye on before this game was whether the Nets were distracted by all of the Carmelo Anthony trade rumors. Well they certainly didn’t act like it in the first quarter as they really came out ready to play. The Nets shot 52.4% in the 1st and scored 28 points. Devin Harris was also very aggressive from the start, scoring 7 early points and helping the Nets get out to an 18-10 lead. But with the fast-paced style that the Suns play, it was no surprise that Phoenix quickly came back and it was tied at the end of the quarter. I don’t think anyone can accuse the Nets of not being ready to play at the start of this one.
Speaking of Harris he played a very nice overall floor game in this one. He knew he had to set the tone for this team by scoring and it seemed like once he got the rest of the guys in the flow of the game, he became the facilitator and was able to finish with 15 assists. The Nets point guard had the best game of his career in this building two years ago when he scored 47 and while tonight wasn’t nearly that good, I thought he played a very solid game.
For the second Wednesday in a row (I’ll just chalk it up to a strange coincidence) the Nets had a tremendous third quarter. Last week against the Bulls they were able to build a big lead thanks to some zone defense and last night they executed well offensively, hit some big shots and outscored the Suns 27-18 in the 3rd. The best thing I saw throughout last night’s game was the Nets effort and hustle, which was clearly on display in this quarter. With the shot clock winding down and a loose ball heading towards half court, Quinton Ross hustled after it and saved it to Jordan Farmar. The backup point guard promptly buried a three to put the Nets up 11. Was Ross’ foot on the sideline when he saved that ball? It may have been but I still liked the hustle from him. Speaking of Ross he actually had a pretty good game against Phoenix and was able to make some wide open jumpers to help on offense.
But just like last week the Nets let the opponent back into the game. You can’t really be surprised last night though because it just seemed like a matter of time before the Suns made a run and started to hit some shots. So despite the double digit lead the Nets built at the end of the third quarter, before you knew it Phoenix had a 1-point lead late in the 4th quarter.
When you look at this game you have to give a lot of credit to the Nets bench. Starting with Kris Humphries and Sasha, and extending to Farmar and Ross, the team brought a ton of effort and scoring from the second unit. The “five-some” of Hump, Vujacic, Ross, Farmar and even Johan Petro combined for 59 points and really outplayed the Suns bench. Guys like Humphries and Vujacic have been pretty consistent off the bench but it was nice to see the other guys step up as well.
After 46 minutes of solid offensive basketball, this one was tied at 97 and came down to the final two minutes. The Nets got a real nice possession capped off by a great look from Farmar to Hump to take a 2-point lead. After two Dudley free throws the game was tied once again. But then Farmar took an awful three and then there was an awful call. Travis Outlaw and Humphries had Channing Frye pinned on the baseline when Outlaw was called for a foul he did not commit. Of course Frye promptly buried the free throws and gave Phoenix the lead.
This is not the same Phoenix Suns team and after watching them for a full 48 minutes (well 53) for the first time all season I think it’s safe to say they’ve started their downslide. But Steve Nash is still remarkable at this point in his career. He was not good from the field (6-17), but he hit one of the biggest shots of the game on a scoop to the hoop with 23.1 seconds remaining and he also dished out 16 assists.
So the Nets were down 2, with the ball and the shot clock off. And Avery went with the strategy of going early in case they missed. Hump was able to get open again down low, this time for a jam, and the Nets got the stop they needed when Channing Frye turned it over and we were all treated to some free basketball.
I know with the Suns going small to start the Overtime period, Avery had to match that. But leaving Brook on the bench in a close game? The Nets starting center could not have been happy with that. So then when he comes in midway through the OT period, he forces a shot the first time he touches the ball and misses. There were too many empty possessions for the Nets in the Overtime period, and it ended up costing them. Aside from a Vujacic three on the first possession, the team struggled to score while the Suns had no such trouble.
The most interesting part of this game may have come from the Nets bench area. After Brook forced the shot in OT that I previously mentioned, Avery took him out and put the rook Favors in. The cameras then caught Brook on the bench, arms crossed, not looking very happy at all. We’ll see if anything comes of this but the Nets starting center did not look like he was satisfied with the coaching decision.
The Nets played well enough to win this game but in the end they didn’t do enough in crunch time. They were outscored 15-6 in the Overtime period and a game that was very well played ended up being pretty anticlimactic. Tough loss, Brook isn’t happy, the trade rumors will continue and now the Nets go to LA-LA-Land to face the Lakers tomorrow night. Good luck.