Close only counts in horseshoes

nets_300.jpgORLANDO – The Nets don’t want to admit it, but this is getting old.
 
They play a good team tough, actually have a lead in the fourth quarter and can’t close out the game. Three times it’s happened this week. The Orlando Magic were the beneficiaries of it last night, winning, 105-102, against the Nets.
 
These games have been eerily similar. Ten total points have separated the Nets from the Hornets, Celtics and Magic.
 
It sounds good if you’re the Memphis Grizzlies or Oklahoma City Thunder, and it would have sounded good if this was November. But the Nets are in a playoff race, so each of these close losses hurt a little more, even if they won’t say it.
 
The Nets are taking the positive spin, saying this is the effort they need to play with, and if they keep doing it things will go in their favor.
 
Eventually, though they’re going to have to make plays late against good teams because they still have six more games against division leaders and seven more against teams with winning percentages above .600
 
With 20 games remaining, the Nets are 1 Ĺ games out of the last playoff spot. Every loss hurts, nevermind how hard the play.
 
In Friday night’s game, the Nets were on fire, shooting 60 percent for much of the first half, which allowed them to withstand the dominance of Dwight Howard. They were still shooting 55 percent in the fourth when they were up 97-90 with just over six minutes to play.
 
Those last six minutes crushed the Nets, just like the last minute crushed them against the Hornets and last 65 seconds against the Celtics. Each loss was different, different people made mistakes, different shots were missed, but there was something eerily similar about each of them.
 
“It stings,” Devin Harris said. “We’ve had leads going late into the games. We missed some shots. I thought tonight was a better effort execution wise. We got good shots at the basket. They just didn’t go down. We played good defense. But they made a few more plays.
 
“Look at the positive thing, the effort level is there, we’ve been playing great the last six games. We just haven’t been able to finish games out. If we keep getting the type of effort, it’s going to be better for us later in the season.”
 
In this game, the Nets missed nine of their last 10 shots, including Bobby Simmons’ go-ahead three with the score 104-102 and Vince Carter’s game-tying three just before the horn sounded.
 
In each of these losses, the Nets have ended the game on a deficit, a few misses in a row. Eventually, the shots may fall. Then again, maybe they won’t.
 
Playing better defensively will make a difference. The Magic only scored 22 in the fourth, but that doesn’t matter if the Nets only score 16. It also doesn’t matter if the Nets give up 60 in the first half.
 
The Nets were up 97-90 about midway through the fourth. They gave up 15 the rest of the way and scored five.
 
They were caught in two crucial mismatches late, with Harris on 6-foot-10 Hedo Turkoglu, who hit back-to-back baskets after the score was tied that ultimately sent the Magic to the win.
 
The other night, it was a defensive lapse against Ray Allen and Paul Pierce when Allen was left open for the game-tying three.
 
The Nets keep giving themselves chance to win, but they also keep making mistakes. They have to correct them, especially against good teams, if they want to make the playoffs.
 
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)

One comment

  1. luousa@gmail.com

    If you compare the ball pass speed and times between Celtics and Nets, compare the movement of players on court (espcially the no ball players), then you know why NETS performance is so poor.

    The Celtics five players on court work like ONE person. Unfortunately NETS five players on court work individually.

    The worse is that Harris, he is really very good on One on One offensive and has very good speed. However, as a 6 feet 3 inches point guard, always plays as Michael Jorden II. Then the game for NETS is not five individual players to play, it only has 1 (Harris) + 0.5 (Carter) + 0.5 (Lopetz) on court to play. Other palyers: Hayes, Hassell, Yi, Simmens, Anderson, … etc. are ONLY witeness of the game, Stand on court without moving. Occasonally by chance, Anderson or Yi may move under the basket (maybe their hands are too cold, no chance to touch the ball) to make a dunk, that is it.

    So 1+0.5+0.5 Individual Players play with other NBA TEAM, five players’ team.

    Keep five player Moving on court and Passing the ball to the OPEN position! That is really what NETS need, a TEAM to play.

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