Thoughts on the Game: U-G-L-Y

The Nets should be proud of themselves.

After last night’s disgusting 79-68 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats in Charlotte last night, the Nets redefined the word “ugly.” Last night’s performance was so over-the-top ugly, it helped bring back a nostalgic wave of “your momma is so ugly” jokes for me. For example:

The Nets were so ugly, they had more turnovers (26) than field goals (25).

The Nets were so ugly, they held the Bobcats to 32.4 percent shooting (including 19 percent in the first half), and they still lost by 11 points.

The Nets were so ugly, they scored 7 points in the third quarter.

Last one. The Nets were so ugly, they went more than 10 minutes in the second half without scoring a single point.

It’s almost inconceivable to me that a professional NBA team could play so poorly. The Nets have a number of built-in excuses. Their youth and inexperience has already been discussed ad nauseum, and the injuries are piling up. Devin Harris joined Keyon Dooling, Tony Battie and Jarvis Hayes over the weekend. And then, midway through the third quarter, Yi Jianlian colliding with Gerald Wallace and sprained his knee. He’s now on his way to get an MRI on his knee, and is certain to miss some time.

But these excuses don’t explain a third quarter that I still can’t fully wrap my head around.  Let’s look at a sequence of Nets possessions from the point Yi went down with his injury:

5:46: Brook Lopez, turnover.
5:28: Bobby Simmons three-point missed.
5:01: Lopez offensive foul, turnover.
4:23: Terrence Williams jump shot missed. Shot clock violation. Team turnover.
3:57: Simmons jump shot missed.
3:22: Alston jump shot missed.
2:43: Williams jump shot missed.
2:01: Chris Douglas-Roberts layup missed.

And it goes on like this until the 8:38 mark in the fourth quarter, where CDR made a layup and was fouled on the play.
Credit does need to be given to the Bobcats, who did their best to shoot themselves out of the game in the first-half, but stayed aggressive throughout. Gerald Wallace, lived up to his nickname “crash,” and seemed to spend more time on the floor, then running the court. Still, he finished with 24 points and 20 rebounds, the second player in this early season to have a 20-20 game against the Nets.

DJ Augustin was instant offense off the bench, going for 21 points in 27 minutes, including an absolute dagger of a 22-footer with 3:50 left in the fourth quarter to put the Bobcats back up by 13. Rafer Alston, whose most recent comments to the press talk about how he wants to lead the team in Devin Harris’ absence, never stood a chance against yet another younger, quicker guard in this league.

If I could play couch-potato psychologist for a minute, it looks to me like the Nets got punched in the jaw during the fourth quarter of last week’s season opener against Minnesota and still haven’t recovered. They were left off the hook in deafeat by a very good Magic team that happened to miss a bunch of open jumpers on Friday and probably should have beaten the Nets by more. And then the Nets got ambushed by the Wizards Saturday night in a game Lawrence Frank had called “putrid.” Last night, while the Nets had jumped out a double digit lead early, the Bobcats weren’t going to shoot 19 percent for the entire game. At least, you shouldn’t have expected them too. The Nets were not hitting their jumps shots, they’re not helping each other on defense, and they’re not riding the horses they have left for points. What happened to last Wednesday’s Brook Lopez who absolutely dominated for three quarters on pick-and-rolls, pick-and-pops, and one-on-one post play? Last night’s Brook Lopez looked confused and disoriented whenever a second defender was near him and ended up turning the ball over 7 times.

The Nets are so ugly, I’m starting to wonder if we’re suiting up the wrong Lopez twin.

Key Plays:

Second Quarter, 9:21: One of my biggest gripes with Terrence Williams in the early-going is his desire to occasionally make the extra pass to the team’s detriment. During a fast break in the second quarter, Williams had Brook Lopez running the floor with him and only Nazr Mohammed to beat. Mohammed seemed to be cheating towards Lopez, so rather than forcing the pass over to the big guy for the potential assist, TWill took the ball to the hoop for the three-point play. There’s an instance where Williams needed to be selfish, and it worked out.

Third Quarter, 11:14: When a team is going bad, you can almost always trace things back to poor fundamentals. Here, Lopez is left bringing the ball over the halfcourt line and looks rather awkward doing so. He eventually picks up his dribble near the top of the key and tries to hand the ball off to Alston, and naturally turns the ball over. If Alston is going to be a leader, he needs to find a way to get ha ball out of Lopez’s hands much sooner than he did.

Fourth Quarter, 6:33:
In his recap after Satuday’s game against the Wizards, Sebastian alluded to Courtney Lee just pressing in the early going. No better example than at this key moment in the fourth when the Nets actually started to make a bit of a run and had cut the Bobcats lead to 9. Off the Boris Diaw miss, Courtney Lee pushed the ball up the court, but only had Brook Lopez ahead of him. Lee, elected to fire the pull-up jumper with his defender in his face, and nary a Net on the other side of the court. There was also 19 seconds left on the shot clock. I would have liked to see him pull the ball back out and reset, trying to get a good shot to cut the lead to 7 or 6.

Last thoughts:

  • I was a bit befuddled by Lawrence Frank’s rotations all night. After Yi went down, Bobby Simmons was back getting extended minutes at the four, while Eduardo Najera and Josh Boone sat on the bench and didn’t see any game action.
  • On the offensive end, CDR struggled for the first three quarters, but was trying to keep the Nets in the game throughout the fourth, attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line.
  • Before his knee injury, Yi was putting the ball on the floor and driving to the hoop more than I’ve seen him in the past. We’ll see if he’s tentative coming off an injury.
  • People have ripped on Devin Harris’ defense since he joined the Nets, but I’ve yet to watch a game with Rafer Alston in a Nets uniform where he comes close to stopping an opposing point guard.
  • Not to repeat myself but Lawrence Frank really needs to end this Bobby Simmons at the four experiment.  He put up a +/- of -12 tonight, which sadly wasn’t even the worst on the team.
  • The Nets have an offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions) of 79.4 tonight. To put that in perspective, the Orlando Magic lead the league right now with an efficiency of 119.9. That’s a differential of nearly 40 points per 100 possessions.

More from last night:

Game Flow

Box Score

Queen City Hoops Recap and By the Numbers

Rufus on Fire Recap

Lawrence Frank postgame video

CDR postgame video