EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Rarely does a team shoot 51.3 percent from the field and only commit 10 turnovers and lose. But there usually is only one reason that happens, and it’s bad defense.
The Nets are guilty as charged.
It was the type of defense that makes the other team elicit oohs and aahs from the crowd and has people leaving the Izod Center talking about how good Brandon Roy or LaMarcus Aldridge is or how good rookie Jerryd Bayless can be.
It’s hard to play worse defense than the Nets did in the fourth quarter of their 105-99 loss to Portland.
The Nets gave up 37 in the fourth. They let the Blazers shoot 13-of-19. They made one stop at the very start of the fourth, one at the very end and only four in between that span.
It was the type of defensive effort that, when coupled with Wednesday’s 32-point blasting at Boston, makes you wonder if the Nets really can be a playoff team. Their wins lately have been against bad teams. Their play in these back-to-back games against one great team and one good team has left a lot to be desired.
“You just learn from it,” Vince Carter said. “That’s the beautiful thing about practice and shoot-around – tape. You watch it. And we just have to continue to educate ourselves on how to close [out] teams.
“You learn from great teams like Boston. When they are up, they put you away. You have to take care of business. You continue to execute going into the fourth and take their heart, take their pride. We didn’t do a great job of that tonight.”
No, the Nets didn’t as they wasted an 11-point lead in the third quarter. They seemed to be in control at that point as Harris was dominating as a playmaker.
He was responsible for five of the Nets’ seven third-quarter field goals at that point and wound up accounting for 16 of their last 17 points in the period. But the 11-point cushion was down to three by the end of the third and gone by early in the fourth.
The Nets made shots, but they couldn’t get stops and trailed the last 9:03 of the fourth period.
“You’ve got to be flawless offensively when you don’t get stops,” coach Lawrence Frank said, “and 37 in the fourth isn’t going to get it done.”
Roy was the catalyst, running the high pick-and-roll to near perfection, and was the best player on the floor with 29 points, but Bayless, Outlaw and Aldridge hit all the big shots.
Bayless attacked the paint and scored inside whenever he wanted. Outlaw canned back-to-back crushing threes around the midway point of the fourth and sealed the game with a tough pull up jumper with 63 seconds to go. And Aldridge with his high release sunk three jump shots from 15-feet and beyond.
“I think we just really struggled with one play,” Frank said.
The Nets are kicking themselves because they knew what the Blazers were running, but everything they tried Portland countered.
It didn’t help that Carter had another off night with 13 points on 4-of-14 shooting. But you’re not always going to make shots, so you have to make sure you defend.
Even with Carter struggling, the Nets hit 51.3 percent from the field and still couldn’t win all because they couldn’t stop one play over and over and over again.
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)