A dark cloud hangs over Brooklyn. They’ve lost eight straight games, 12 of the last 14 and they’re 2-10 since Caris LeVert’s injury. They haven’t won at home in over a month.
Worst of all, they’ve blown double digit leads in three of the seven losses on the eight-game skid. They were notorious for losing close games late last year and they’re gaining that identity again. They win these three games and we’re talking 11-15, not 8-18.
Granted, they don’t have the most talent and they lost their best player. We offer no excuses. For a third consecutive season they’ve shown that they’re incapable of winning games, particularly down the stretch.
They do it in heartbreaking fashion. They fail to sustain big leads over a period of time and collapse late in games. They’ve lost three of their last seven games in the final five seconds of the game.
They’ve displayed sadly impressive and new ways to throw away wins.
With tonight's epic collapse, the Nets have as many losses in games they led by double-digits (8) as they have wins (8).— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) December 6, 2018
Here were the last three heartbreaks, all in the last two weeks:
December 5: The Nets were beating the Oklahoma City Thunder by 18 entering the fourth quarter. Paul George dropped 25 points of his 47 points in the fourth and hit the game-winning three-pointer with 3.1 seconds left..
It was another “epic collapse” as Schuhmann would call it. The Nets led by one with a three second differential from shot clock to game clock. D’Angelo Russell pulled up and missed with 10 seconds left on the game clock. The Nets played foolish D and George made them pay.
They struggled on the inbound pass and lost the game.
November 30: The Nets were beating the Memphis Grizzlies by seven with 51 seconds left. Memphis cut it to three with 23 seconds left, Nets ball. Turnover. Jaren Jackson Jr. three-pointer. Overtime.
The Nets had possession and a chance to win in the first overtime, but they turned the ball over. They let up in the second overtime and lost by six.
November 25: The Nets were beating the Philadelphia 76ers by 13 with 5:38 left. The Sixers went on a 16-2 run late and the two teams exchanged buckets, with Brooklyn up by one with the shot clock turned off. Jimmy Butler stepped back on the right wing extended and nailed a three with 0.4 second left.
The Sixers led one time and one time only before that 16-2 run and it was when they led 2-0.
The problem is that there’s a constant trend with these losses. It’s easy to nitpick at certain things (i.e. DLo pulling up from three too early.)
“The D’Angelo (Russell) one at the end of the shot clock, it’s just something he’s gotta learn. You’ve got take the shot clock down, you’ve got to leave them with little time on the clock, but that’s just a learning thing for a 22 year old point guard,” Kenny Atkinson said after the game.
He isn’t wrong, but that isn’t why they lost.
The Nets shouldn’t even be in these situations. In all three games listed above, the Nets were in the lead or at least tied by the third quarter. In the OKC and Philly game, they were up double digits to start the quarter.
It takes a complete meltdown to squander these games that feel like they deserve it. Until the final moments.
Teams begin to switch more against the Nets in the fourth quarter. When teams switch, it puts guys in mismatches and the Nets become obsessed with iso. Now, anybody that watches the Nets know they win quarters when the ball is moving, in transition, and going downhill.
When iso ball comes into the mix, guys start playing hero ball, namely Spencer Dinwiddie and D’Angelo Russell , the guys with the ball in their hands. The ball doesn’t move; therefore, shots are contested and passes are forced. Pace is suddenly swayed from the Nets to the opposition.
And suddenly, you find yourself in an isolation battle against Jimmy Butler or Paul George with two minutes on the clock.
Say what you’d like about Jared Dudley’s production on the court, but there’s no denying his veteran basketball I.Q. He explained a similar concept after the game:
“Right now we’re not good enough to go one-on-one, stagnant, and score at a high rate. That’s not saying anything to anyone on our team, that’s saying when we move the ball side to side, in transition, set flares, get downhill, we’re a good team. It happens when teams switch and make you go iso ball.”
But that isn’t the only thing.
“There’s not just one thing, we literally do 10 things to lose a game. Turnovers, bad fouls, bad shots, not knowing time on the court, not getting offensive rebounds. They had probably 7-8 more shots in the last minute and a lot of that stuff is on the players, some of the stuff the coaches can help out with making adjustments. I understand that. It’s just frustrating watching it over and over again.”
Indeed. The coaching staff isn’t perfect. Perhaps they can make adjustments or call timeouts at a more necessary time. Rotations can be frustrating due to the analytical approach they take.
Coaches don’t lose the basketball games, though. They don’t miss the shots, turn the ball over, miss their defensive assignments ... or try hero ball.
However, the one justified beef with the coaching staff is that if the losing is going to continue, then practice what you preach: Development. I’d rather see Rodions Kurucs learning late in a game – whether it’s good or bad – versus a veteran like Dudley who says all the right things but hasn’t produced enough to earn minutes late in games.
Point is: Play the kids. The Nets don’t really have to tank. They lost their best player and it’s certainly showing. It hurts. It started doomsday for the 2018 season.
But, behind that dark cloud awaits a rainbow. If they continue to play at this pace, the rain will continue until June when the skies clear and the rainbow leads to a pot of gold ...Sean Marks picking in the lottery.