The Nets tried to play a game of don’t-break-this-up last night. Even if they won, it wouldn’t have mattered - they’re not staying together.
But the way they lost was another example why Nets executives were prepared to trade more than half their roster in a deal for Carmelo Anthony. You wonder if there will come a point where they’ll be willing to give up more.
Closing time usually turns out to be losing time for the Nets and that’s what happened in Phoenix as they opened the four-game trip with a 118-109 overtime loss to the Suns.
There’s no point quantifying this one. It was just another bad loss in a season filled with bad losses for a team that’s going nowhere as is.
But this one had to hurt the Nets because they really needed this and you could tell they wanted this one.
“I’m really proud of them,” coach Avery Johnson said. “They poured their hearts out on the court tonight. I really feel for them tonight. I wanted to win this game. I wanted them to win this game.”
This might have been the Nets’ best win of the season had they closed it out. Consider all they have experienced the past few days with all of the reports about a potential 14-to-16 player three-team trade with the Nuggets and Pistons that would bring Anthony to New Jersey.
The Nets could have shown something, showed tremendous focus, resilience and togetherness if they would have pulled out this game. But it was a miserable collapse that featured the Suns outscoring the Nets 43-19 over the final 14:10 of the game and Brook Lopez playing the role of spectator for most of the fourth quarter and overtime.
Much of it was because the Suns went small, but when the Nets were struggling to score, Johnson waited and waited before calling on Lopez. When Johnson finally did, Lopez saw 16 seconds of OT action. But after a missed baseline hook shot Derrick Favors replaced Lopez, who didn’t look happy on the bench.
Lopez finished with 16 points, but late in the game he was as visible as Anthony was in this game.
Johnson dreams of his center getting 10 rebounds in a game. Lopez dreams of finishing a game. But that’s really what Johnson should be dreaming about – the Nets finishing a game.
The Nets appeared in good shape – key word appeared – up 90-75 with 10:45 left in regulation and then went 7:17 without a field goal. This happened against the Suns. They don’t defend. But these are the Nets. They don’t score.
For the 1000th time, and probably not the last, this is A reason the Nets have made getting Anthony their mission. Scoring droughts wouldn’t happen as much. The Nets would have someone to throw the ball to and know will get a shot or free up someone for a shot.
Devin Harris, one of the Nets’ most prominently mentioned in the Anthony talks, got the Nets off to a great start. He played hard throughout, played to win and finished with 15 points and 15 assists.
This is a credit to Harris’ professionalism. He knows he could be in another uniform tomorrow, next week or next month. But he couldn’t make enough plays late against Steve Nash and the Suns.
Sasha Vujacic and Kris Humphries, who aren’t in the current talks, were solid as well, scoring 19 and 16, respectively off the bench.
All that mattered though is the Nets had a chance to close out this game, to walk away with a sense of pride that they did something together when they don’t know how much longer they’re going to be together.
“We had to go with the hot guys. They were putting him in some pick-and-roll situations. We just couldn’t handle it when they were small. They had Channing Frye at five. We had a tough time with Frye at five and we didn’t do a good job of making Frye pay on the other end inside. Because of that we had to change our lineup, which pretty much saved us and helped us get the game in overtime.”
- Johnson on why Lopez sat most of the fourth quarter and OT.
Follow me on Twitter: @Al_Iannazzone
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)