Sunday, November 10, 2013
Nets fail to execute down the stretch
By Mike Mazzeo
NEW YORK -- It's become a disturbing early trend.
In three of their first four losses, the Brooklyn Nets, who are still trying to develop continuity and continue to preach patience with seven new players and a rookie head coach, have failed to execute down the stretch in the fourth quarter.
On Saturday night, $98 million point guard Deron Williams was the main culprit, fouling George Hill behind the 3-point line with 2 minutes, 50 seconds left and then committing a careless turnover 1:43 later.
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"It was a stupid foul and the turnover definitely cost us," Williams said after the Nets fell to the NBA's lone undefeated team, the Indiana Pacers, 96-91, in front of a sellout crowd at Barclays Center.
But, as Williams astutely pointed out, those two plays weren't the only reason the Nets (2-4) lost. Brook Lopez (3:12) and Kevin Garnett (39 seconds) both missed layups in crunch time. Brooklyn also had six turnovers in the final period, was outscored 28-21 in the third quarter and gave up 20 second-chance points.
"Those types of things take a toll on you," Williams admitted.
Still, as they've been saying over and over again, the Nets aren't ready to hit the panic button in their stated pursuit of an NBA title.
After all, there's still plenty of season left.
"We're just learning to play together," said Williams, who up until his fourth-quarter miscues was having his best game of the season; he finished with season highs in points (17), assists (10) and minutes played (33).
"We didn't have everybody healthy for training camp. We're all trying to come together and develop chemistry," the eight-year veteran said. "It's not going to happen overnight. We're not panicking. We know it's going to come together. We're confident that we can overcome these little struggles, and we're going to stay together no matter what's happening on the outside."
Expectations for this team are at an all-time high. That's what happens when your Russian billionaire owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, drops $190 million on his roster and doesn't even bat an eye. But Brooklyn coach Jason Kidd has said it's going to be process, that it is a marathon, not a sprint. And so far, it has been.
Fans and pundits may be expecting immediate results. They just aren't there.
"It's frustrating," said Garnett, who is shooting just 32.1 percent in the early going. "But I don't think you put a timetable on something when you want perfection."
Paul George burned the Nets on Saturday.
The Pacers (7-0) showed their mettle when it mattered the most. The Nets rallied from 10 down to get within three, but couldn't get any closer. Kidd ended up drawing up a play to get Joe Johnson, known for his late-game heroics, open for a 3-pointer, but Johnson missed it with 11 seconds left.
In the end, Paul George (24 points, 6 rebounds) played like one of the best players in the league, while getting great support from teammates David West (18 points, 8 rebounds), Roy Hibbert (15 points, 11 rebounds) and Lance Stephenson (15 points, 7 assists).
"Indiana's been together. They're a well-coached team," Garnett said. "When you play good teams like that, teams that have chemistry, the margin for error is very small. We shot ourselves in the foot. You find yourself in quicksand, if you will. We could never turn the corner tonight, but we had our opportunities."
The Nets will have Sunday off, then practice Monday and Tuesday before embarking on a three-game West Coast road trip.
Perhaps it's exactly what they need.
"It's a long season," Paul Pierce said. "We don't want to pile up the losses right now. But I definitely think we'll figure it out. Maybe the West will be good for us. Sometimes you take a trip and your guys are all together, and you seem to come together. I've been on a lot of teams where we've done that, so that's what we're hoping for.
"This is the type of road trip that can turn things around for us, and we're looking forward to it."