Timberwolves 103, Nets 88: A Masterpiece of Incompetence and Cluelessness

Darko Milicic shot
The good ol' "invisible defense" ploy by the Nets. ...Again.

Box ScoreA Wolf Among WolvesCanis Hoopus

Title credit given to NAS commenter calling all toasters, who summed up the game in six words just perfectly in a comment in our pregame open thread.

Truthfully, I don’t know where to start.

Maybe I should start by saying that the Nets at least locked Michael Beasley down, only allowing him to shoot 4-10 with six turnovers. Maybe I should revel in the fact that Kevin Love “only” had ten rebounds. Maybe I should note that the Nets were actually ahead after the first half, that Kris Humphries and Sasha Vujacic had great games, or that the Nets had 22 assists in the game – more than they’ve had in nearly a month.

Or maybe I should start by saying that there is no logical universe in which the Nets should have played as they did last night.

There is no logical universe where Johan Petro should attempt eight shots and Brook Lopez seven. Where Travis Outlaw leads the starters in shot attempts (unless he’s on fire – and he wasn’t). Where the Nets commit 19 turnovers, shoot more shots from the “long 2” part of the floor (16-23 feet) than anywhere else, and are held to nine points in the third quarter against the second-worst defense in the NBA. Where the Nets, fresh into the new year, stamp their mark as one of the biggest laughingstocks in the NBA with an embarrassing loss to an awful basketball team.

Maybe I should talk about how Derrick Favors, with no athletic equivalent on the floor, played himself out of the game with five fouls and zero rebounds in just under twelve minutes. Or how Devin Harris shot 3-13 from the floor & turned the ball over four times against defensive matadors Luke Ridnour & Sebastian Telfair. Perhaps I should break down how in 30 minutes Brook Lopez made only three of his seven attempts, bested Devin’s four turnovers with five of his own, and only grabbed four rebounds with Darko Milicic as his primary defender. There is no logical universe.

Yet here we are, knee-deep in this absurdity.

Milicic looked more like a 2nd overall pick than ever last night, manhandling Brook Lopez to the tune of 16 points on 8-9 shooting in just 20 minutes of play. His array of hook shots, layups, and poise in the post in such limited time made me wonder if there was some Invasion of the Body Snatchers going on and Minnesota actually had Brook Lopez by accident. Darko made all six of his shots from within ten feet, missing only an 11-foot jumper late in the second quarter. The Nets had no answer for Darko Milicic. Let that sentence swirl around in your head for a while. I’m still not fully realizing it.

I keep going back to that third quarter. At the half, the Nets were ahead 55-54, thanks to Vujacic’s 16 in the first half. Let’s recap how the first six minutes went for the Nets on offense: Humphries miss, Lopez 3-second violation, Harris miss, Outlaw miss, Humphries offensive rebound, Outlaw blocked shot, Harris miss, Harris miss, Lopez turnover, Graham offensive foul, Vujacic turnover, Petro miss, Favors made layup.

To recap: It took six minutes and eleven possessions for the Nets to score a single point in the third quarter. This happened against a team that allows 111 points per 100 possessions, only better than the Phoenix Suns in the entire NBA. A one-point lead at the half turned into an eleven-point deficit. The Timberwolves never looked back.

If there’s any bright spot from last night’s game, it’s that Sasha Vujacic continues to be the most consistent producer this team has. He played a great game last night, leading the Nets with 22 points on 9-16 shooting in a team-leading 35 minutes off the bench. There were numerous occasions where he was on his feet while out of the game, cheering on his teammates from the bench. No one else on the Nets does that as much as he does, and I appreciate his passion. But when a team’s most passionate player is its sixth man, and that player is Sasha Vujacic, that team is in a lot of trouble.

All in all, in the long run it’s just one game. I know that. Sometimes teams have off nights, and the Nets certainly had one here. But an off night like this one – scoring 33 points in the second half, allowing one of the worst teams in the NBA to absolutely dismantle you – has got to be a tough pill to swallow for Avery Johnson & the rest of the Nets. As an observer, it’s a pretty tough one for me, too.

More thoughts after the jump.

I already mentioned that Johan Petro took eight shots. To make you feel worse, five of them were long jumpers, and he only made one of those. Johan, I know you love long jumpers as much as anything, but they are the single least efficient shot in the NBA for anyone. For a lanky 7-footer, it’s even worse. For a lanky seven-footer who’s shot over 75% at the rim these past two years and is a career 40% shooter from deep two-point range, it’s positively inexcusable.

I’m as high on Derrick Favors as anyone on this blog, and possibly in the universe. But if he does not sort out his foul trouble issues, he won’t be on the court long enough to become anything. He’s had at least four fouls in 15 of the team’s 33 games and is averaging 6.5 fouls per 36 minutes. We all know he’s got a steep learning curve, but those numbers are alarming to say the least.

This is more a general observation than a game-specific one, but when I watch the Nets, I do dream about what they’d be like with a point guard who knew how to run the pick & roll effectively. Maybe that’s why I’m so gaga for Kyrie Irving.

I hate to say this, but it’s true. You know what kind of player would be helpful to a team that only scores 33 points in the second half against an absolutely terrible defense?

I know the obvious guy that answers the last question, but another slightly less prominent answer would be Anthony Morrow. That guy’s injury has absolutely crippled this team from outside. Since his injury the Nets have only had a better eFG% than their opponents twice, in the wins against Memphis & Atlanta. I appreciate what Stephen Graham brings to the table defensively, but he’s not a starting-quality shooting guard, and the Nets need someone who can just flat-out launch at this point.