NEWARK, N.J. – You could tell the Nets wanted this game – for themselves and for their fans.
This was their home finale and it was a difficult fadeaway jump shot by D.J. Augustin with 1.1 seconds left that ultimately decided the 105-103 Charlotte win. But it didn’t come down to that tough shot by Augustin over Lopez. When you lose a game by two points there are so many plays that contribute.
You can point to some poor defense, bad shot selection and an inability to finish inside. And just once you would like to see the Nets deliver a hard foul when someone is driving to the basket instead of just letting the guy score or reaching at him, and giving him a three-point play opportunity.
That happened too much in this game that like the Raptors game the night before wound up being a battle of attrition. Each team had nine players, and although Brook Lopez once again was the best player on the court, the Nets couldn’t overcome their own mistakes earlier.
In Toronto, they fell behind by 21. In this game, the Nets had a nice rhythm early, led by eight, but didn’t extend their cushion. They have to figure out how to do that, develop a killer instinct that way because teams do it to the Nets all the time.
Their eight-point lead became a 10-point deficit and then the Nets had to climb their way back. They did, pulling ahead by one, 94-93 on Sasha Vujacic’s three with 2:01 remaining. The problem was, the Bobcats made their final five shots. On a side note, the Bobcats are the second-worst scoring team in the league. The Nets are third worst.
“Tough way to finish up but give our guys a lot of credit,” coach Avery Johnson said. “They came out in the second half and really played hard. D.J. hit a tough shot, tough shot.”
This game was typical of many Nets’ games this season, especially at home, where they finished 19-22 in their first season at the Prudential Center.
Even with Vujacic draining a game-tying three on an out-of-bounds play with 10.9 seconds left, the Nets couldn’t make enough plays on both ends of the floor with the game on the line.
“We had a great effort,” said Lopez, who led everyone with 31 points, but needed to be stronger inside on the defensive end. “Obviously we’re building something bigger and we got one more, but the fans showed us a lot of support tonight at home and I just want to thank them for it.”
The Nets still have one more game this season and would like to end it on a positive note. But they play in Chicago on Wednesday and there is a chance the Bulls could be playing for the best record in the NBA so they may not rest their regulars. It will depend on the results of some games on Tuesday.
The Nets wanted this one and not just because they were home. But for all they have gone through this season, trade rumors, injuries, trades, surgeries, they don’t want it to end this way – with 14 losses in their last 16 games heading into Chicago.
But this game was like a few others that could have gone either way late and a big shot, a bad offensive possession or a bad defensive trip cost the Nets.
Think Oklahoma City and triple-overtime loss, or the game when Jameer Nelson hit a tough shot over Lopez in the closing seconds to give Orlando a one-point win, or Kris Humphries’ jumper being a hair late in a one-point overtime loss to the Suns.
“We’ve had a lot of positive experiences here at the Prudential Center,” Johnson said. “Hopefully it’s one that the fans look forward to seeing next year with even a more improved product.”
You have to believe having Deron Williams would help the Nets in these situations. He has in victories over the Celtics and Timberwolves when he hit the game-winning shot in what was his last game of the season. The Nets would have liked a similar ending in their home finale.
Williams had surgery to remove loose particles and scar tissue from his right wrist. The Nets doctors said he should resume basketball activities in 6-8 weeks.
Follow me on Twitter: @Al_Iannazzone
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)