The first time LeBron James and the Heat visited the Prudential Center was Halloween afternoon and it was scary how quickly the game got away from the Nets.
James and company are back, playing in The Rock tomorrow, and it’s scary how badly the Nets have played lately.
The Nets are expecting a big crowd like in October and they’re hoping they give more of a show than that day and than many of their games here recently.
“It’s going to be one of the last home games,” Nets guard Sasha Vujacic said. “I hope that Prudential Center is going to be packed and with our fans - because we need that right now. We need that energy from our fans for 48 minutes and we have to feel like at home.”
The Nets are pleading for the fans to show. But the Nets have to show themselves to give the fans a reason to show when the Heat, Knicks, Celtics, Lakers or Blake Griffin and the Clippers aren't coming to town. Deron Williams was one of several Nets to say the Nets shouldn’t have trouble getting up for this game, but really they should be ready for every game.
They haven’t, though, with nine losses in the last 10 games. In all nine losses the Nets have either been down double-digits or been up by at least 12 and squandered the lead.
There have been execution problems in some of the games, but overall the Nets have lacked energy and fight in many of these games. Looking back at the nine losses during this stretch:
They played the Bulls tough, but Williams struggled with his shot and the Nets couldn’t score late against the NBA’s best defensive team. Nets lose by 11.
The next night in Milwaukee, Williams aggravated his wrist injury and appeared done for the season. The Bucks ran away with it late, winning by 15.
A matinee game in Washington without Williams and the Nets build a 17-point lead, but lose it and lose by seven to the Wiz.
The Nets return home and lose to the Pacers by four after being up 12 on Indy.
After winning in Cleveland in overtime, the Nets battle the Magic in Orlando, but lose by 10.
The next night in Atlanta, the Nets are down 30 before making a comeback, but still fall by 11.
Houston comes to Newark and the Nets have a problem, falling behind by 20 in the first half and get blasted by 25.
The next night in an ESPN game and in Williams’ return, the Nets jump out to a 16-point lead on the Knicks, but can’t stop New York in the second half and lose by four.
Last night in Philadelphia, the Sixers clinched a playoff spot in commanding fashion, building a 35-point lead before scoring a 25-point victory.
“It was one of them games you just want to forget about,” Williams said. “There was nothing really good that comes out of games like this.”
The only good thing is the Nets have to realize if they play the same way against the Heat the game will be over sooner than the 23-point beating in October.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra still will tell his players not to overlook the Nets, that they’re a dangerous team. The Heat probably won’t. James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are playing for seeding in the East. They’re currently second, one-half game up on Boston and 2 ½ behind the Bulls.
The Nets, with the right mentality, can be a dangerous team, especially with Williams attacking. You expect him to be ready for this game and the Nets to follow.
This may not be as important to the franchise as the Knicks’ game was, but it is in many other ways. It could be Williams’ last game of the season, depending on how his wrist feels. It’s also against a team whose blueprint the Nets probably will want to follow.
They are going to try and surround Williams with other stars the way Miami did. That’s something for management to do this summer and next season. But the players still have work to do this season and they should get back to work after taking some games off recently.
Follow me on Twitter: @Al_Iannazzone
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)