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Sunday, December 9, 2012
Performance vs. Bucks is unacceptable

By Mike Mazzeo

What happened on Sunday night at the Barclays Center has happened far too often to the Nets over the last five seasons:

Stagnant offense. Porous defense. An insurmountable deficit. Vociferous boos.

The difference is, those Nets teams had little talent and no expectations. This team does.

And that's why it must have been so upsetting to owner Mikhail Prokhorov, GM Billy King and coach Avery Johnson -- a trio that has invested so much time, money and energy into putting together a championship-caliber roster that the borough of Brooklyn could be proud of -- as they witnessed an absolute abomination of a first half that saw the Nets shoot 27.7 percent, score a season-low 31 points and trail by 17 to a Milwaukee Bucks team that came in having lost seven of 10.

It only got worse from there.
Avery Johnson
Avery Johnson yelling during Sunday's loss to the Bucks.

With 6:39 remaining in the third quarter, Monta Ellis drilled an 11-footer to put the Bucks up 68-39. It was largest margin the Nets have trailed by at home this season.

Sure they ended up getting within six in the final period and showed some fight.

That would've been good enough for those Nets teams, the ones that went a combined 126-268.

Not this team.

"We've got our backs against the wall right now, and we've got to fight our way out of it," Deron Williams said after the Nets (11-8) lost their season-high fourth game in a row, 97-88.

In their previous three games, the Nets allowed an average of 109.3 points on 53.8 percent shooting. On Sunday night, they jumped out to an 11-2 lead with Reggie Evans starting in place of Kris Humphries, but were done-in by a season-high tying 20 turnovers and the fact that Williams and Joe Johnson were outscored 50-24 by Ellis and Brandon Jennings.

D-Will contributed 18 of those 24 points along with eight assists. As for Johnson? Just six.

And check this: Johnson went 0-for-6 before making his first field goal with 10:01 remaining. He was so ineffective that Avery Johnson sat him for the last 9:04 of the third.

"It doesn’t bother me," Joe Johnson said. "I'd never go against his will. If he decides to sit me, then I'll shoot for the next game."

The next game is Round II of the East River Rivalry against the New York Knicks. The Nets took the first round, but they were a different team then, a team that had a healthy and All-Star caliber player in Brook Lopez and a dynamite bench. Meanwhile the Knicks (15-5) are rolling, having won six of their last seven.

"We're struggling right now," Williams said. "They're a team that's playing really good basketball. But we have to be ready to go."

Lopez is likely to miss his sixth consecutive game due a mild right foot sprain. The Nets are 1-4 without their best interior scorer/paint protector in the lineup.

"We definitely want him back, but we don't want to think we can't win without him," D-Will said. "That's never how you should come into a game."

So was Sunday night’s performance unacceptable?

"Yeah, it is. It's unfortunate," Joe Johnson said. "We're in a tough spot right now. We've got to put it behind us."

Yes. And they need to play better. Much better. With or without Brook Lopez.