It was easy to tell that Deron wanted to win last night's very badly. The Nets probably would have if he could have hit a few more shots.If a moral victory is actually a legitimate thing, then the Nets probably had one last night against the Los Angeles Lakers. A win in the standings? Something they did not have. However, Brooklyn showed that they could match up with and compete with one of the NBA's premier teams in the Lakers by coming back from an early 10-point deficit right off the bat to take the lead throughout much of the second half, just to slowly lose it late in the fourth quarter.
The Nets certainly looked outmatched in the beginning moments of the game, as they committed four quick turnovers in the first four minutes, pressured by the hounding Los Angeles defense. It was surprising that the Lakers--in the debut of new, solely offensive-minded head coach Mike D'Antoni--played so well on the defensive side of the court early on but the turnovers could also be attributed to a Nets squad that was rushing in their sets, making boneheaded and lazy plays, and simply playing like the New Jersey team, one prone to countless amounts of inept stretches of basketball. After a timeout by Avery Johnson, though, Brooklyn came back with a purpose and rattled off eight points in a row to come within two. The game stayed close throughout the rest of the first until Kobe Bryant hit three jumpers in a row to expand the LA lead to six points.
Then, in the second quarter, the Lakers' main weakness was shown as their bench promptly coughed up their lead and the Nets got hot from the field, scoring 34 points in the period to go up a point at half. As usual, the Nets' "bench mob" or "Brooklyn Zoo" (credit Twitter for both awesome nicknames) picked up the slack, with C.J. Watson hitting a few threes, Andray Blatche hitting a few shots in the lane, and, of course, Reggie Evans rebounding nearly everything in sight. Solid second quarter performances also came from starters Brook Lopez and Deron Williams.
The good feelings the Nets felt in the first half were simply not present in the second half. First off, the Nets had another of their patened third quarter swoons, scoring just 16 points and going down three points heading into the final 12 minutes of play. After Dwight Howard split of pair of free throws early in the fourth to put the Lakers up 77-73, Brooklyn went on a eight-point tear, regaining the lead and the game' momentum simultaneously. A Deron Williams jumper, followed by a free throw by Kris Humphries on a Dwight Howard off-ball foul, gave the Nets a lead of six, their highest of the game.
Then, everything fell apart. One of Metta World Peace's four three-pointers in the game brought LA within two points, one free throw apiece from Kobe and Dwight tied up the game, and a Pau Gasol free throw gave the Lakers a one-point lead they would successfully maintain in the last 2:36 of the game. The Nets had a chance to tie at 93 on a D-Will three-point attempt with four seconds remaining but the shot bounced too hard off the backboard and rolled out. A great effort by the road Nets was all for naught and a five-game winning streak snapped.
Some other observations I had from the game: The officiating was awful. They missed tons of crucial calls throughout the game--on both sides, but more in favor of LA--like a few blatant Dwight Howard defensive goaltendings, a Pau Gasol foot shuffle in the game's waning minutes that could have affected the outcome, and a few touch fouls "committed" on Kobe Bryant by Nets defenders that didn't involve much contact at all. Rodney Mott, Mark Ayotte, and Pat Fraher; not welcome in Brooklyn anymore.....The Nets scored 34 points in the second quarter and 33 in the second HALF. Not going to win many games when that happens....Dwight Howard was 7-19 from the free throw line, a stat exacerbated by Avery Johnson's on-and-off Hack-A-Howard technique utilitized in the second half.....The Nets had four turnovers in the game's first four minutes and just nine throughout the rest of the game. I'll take that.....Brook Lopez arguably won the center battle between him and Howard. Brook scored 23 points (as did Howard, albeit greatly enhanced by his many free throw attempts) but only had seven boards to Dwight's 15. However, Brook looked worlds better than Dwight on offense and played very good interior defense. On paper, it might look like Dwight was the better defender but his four blocks were certainly helped by the multiple goaltending calls the refs missed while he swatted balls into the first row....Gerald Wallace was far and the away the best defender on the floor for either team. He had five steals and just five boards but was ridiculously active, creating loads of turnovers, swatting shots at the rim, and playing great D on whomever he was assigned....Reggie Evans had 11 rebounds and no shot attempts. I love that guy.....Kris Humphries didn't have his shot but managed to grab his usual 10 boards even in lessened time due to foul trouble.....D-Will and Joe Johnson weren't terrible by any means, but just couldn't really buy three-pointers, shots the Nets desperately needed in crunch time. Shooting a combined 5-16 from beyond the arc and 12-34 from the field, the Nets's backcourt couldn't hit shots when their team needed it, and when this game gets boiled down fully, it was these missed shots that made the difference.....MarShon only played four minutes. No explanation as to why, we could have used his offense in the second half when we couldn't score at all.
The Nets head up the California coast yet again, this time to Oakland to take on the Golden State Warriors tonight.