Tagged: Chicago Bulls

Nets are staying alive

hayes250_040509.jpgEAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The song playing at the end of the Nets’ rout of the Sixers was “I Just Want to Celebrate” by Rare Earth. Inside the locker room, Devin Harris gave a rare and had-to-be-heard rendition of the Bee Gees hit from “Saturday Night Fever.”

“Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Stayin’ alive,” Harris said, not sang, said.

Yes, he really said that and, yes, the Nets really did that with their 96-67 victory.

They might just be prolonging the inevitable, but it’s better to play this way than the way they played some of the other games that put them in this position.

Two that come to mind are last Sunday and Monday’s humiliating defeats to the Timberwolves and Bucks. But, the Nets seem determined to show those were aberrations and if you look at how they’ve played since it sure looks like they were.

The Nets are 2-1 since those two games and could be 3-0 if they could have closed out the Bulls in Chicago on Saturday. But, late-game execution inevitably will be what costs them a playoff spot, perhaps more so than the many unacceptable losses they’ve suffered.

One Nets’ loss or one Pistons’ win and they’re out. But, whether it matters to you or not, the Nets are a different team since their coach’s job became a topic, their passion and desire became under question and Keyon Dooling became a starter. That counts for something.

“Some teams could have cashed it in, but that’s never crossed our minds,” Dooling said. “We’re going to be as professional as we can be and try to build every time we take the court.”

They’ve played the last three games with a different approach. Maybe it’s because the pressure basically is off. Maybe it’s because they want to finish off the season the right way or maybe they believe they still have a shot at the playoffs.

They do. They need to go 5-0. Detroit needs to go 0-5. But, that’s not all. Indiana and Charlotte are ahead of the Nets still. There is the possibility of three-way ties, but let’s not go there because it’s too much to figure out.

The bottom line is the Nets refused to let go of their season just when just about everyone had figured they were done. A loss and a Detroit win would have ended it and meant more playing time for Yi Jianlian, more plays called for Brook Lopez, perhaps a Sean Williams’ sighting in non-garbage time play.

The Pistons did their part, beating the Bobcats. The game was over by halftime of the Nets’ game. To a man, they swore they didn’t know the score. They may not have been totally honest about that. But, their approach was play to win and not worry about what Detroit or any other team does.

It worked against a 76ers team that just hasn’t looked playoff caliber against the Nets. For the first time in their history, the Nets swept the season series from the 76ers. The Nets led this game by double-digits for the final 28:40.

“We didn’t say anything about positioning or seeding or games left or nothing like that,” Jarvis Hayes said. “We just wanted to come out and play hard and play together.”

The Nets have five games left and barely a glimmer of hope. Few thought they would last this long, especially after last week.

Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.).

A step in the right direction for Nets

nets400.jpgNEW YORK — The Nets looked like the old Nets last night, doing what they used to do to the Knicks before Jason Kidd decided he didn’t want to play here anymore.
When things were bad, those Nets always could count on a big win over the Knicks to lift their spirits and demoralize New York and their fans in their building. Actually, those Nets did it during good times, too.
But the Nets came into this game probably at their lowest, after four straight losses out West, after losing their point guard and leading scorer to a shoulder injury and after their energetic athletic backup big man was arrested and subsequently suspended two games by the team.
The timing for the Nets’ retro performance couldn’t have been better and fittingly it was Vince Carter who had another turn-back-the-clock night in a rousing 115-89 win over the Knicks that at least showed New Jersey has life.
The win meant the Nets are ahead of the Knicks again, by half a game. But, it’s a long road ahead with 14 to play because the Nets still have to leapfrog three teams to make the postseason.
The Nets are 2 games behind Chicago, the current holders of the East’s eighth and final playoff spot and their schedule turns brutal again with the next four games against the Heat, a home-and-home with the Cavaliers and Kobe Bryant’s lone Meadowlands appearance.
But the Nets needed this win, after that trip, after showing little heart or desire in Denver to close the winless journey. They played with pride. They played with passion. They made the Knicks look foolish, just like the old days.
“For us to come out and act like this and play together and compete on the glass because we took a beating on the glass on the road — it was just a great win for us,” Carter said.
As you would expect Carter was the leader, and he had to be with Devin Harris not even in the building because of his sprained left shoulder and strained deltoid. Carter picked the perfect time to put the Nets on his shoulders and take over the game and perhaps their season.
The Nets were down three to open the second and with seven Carter shot attempts and one foul shot, they suddenly led by three. It took 3:50 for Carter to score 17 points. That was more than every Knick but two had for the entire game.
When Carter was done the Nets were up 10 and they just kept building the lead as everyone followed their captain, who breathed energy into his team when it appeared their legs were a little wobbly.
“Looking at our guys I thought we looked a little but tired,” coach Lawrence Frank said. “Vince hits the transition three then he gets another three. Now he’s rolling.”
And so were the Nets.
Then it was rookies Brook Lopez and Chris Douglas-Roberts and then it was Keyon Dooling, who was subbing for Harris as a starter. Those three combined for 54 points and 23 assists.
The Nets are going to need big games from Carter and big production from others, especially while Harris is out. He’s expected to miss the next two games at least and when he comes back who knows if he’ll be as effective right away as he was before Marcus Camby took him out.

But, if the Nets play with this passion and urgency they’ll at least give themselves a chance. Still, they need help, lots of it, but they have to help themselves first and this was a step in that direction.
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.).

Nets let game slip away

dooling250_031109.jpgEverything broke right for the Nets to jump back into eighth place, back into a playoff spot. All they had to do was beat the Golden State Warriors.
But, the team that had suddenly made its mark as one that fought to the end, one that played with urgency exhaled.
Terrible timing. Terrible way to start this four-game West trip.
There are 18 games left, but the Nets’ 116-112 loss to Golden State could be one that costs them their season. This was a bad loss, and got the Nets’ trip off to a rough start. Now to go 2-2 out West, the Nets will have to win in either Portland or Denver. Three-and-one would be near miraculous.
The Bulls were beaten earlier on Wednesday and the Bucks on Tuesday. A win to start this trip would have put the Nets all alone in eighth, could have set them up for a nice, successful trip. Instead they’re tied for 10th again after losing one they had to win.
The Nets seemed in good shape, up 81-67 roughly midway through the third. About 11 minutes later, the Nets were down, 108-97, outscored 45-16 in that time. They made it interesting late, but it never should have come to that.
“It’s very, very disappointing,” coach Lawrence Frank said on the YES Network after the game. “In the third quarter, we started to lose our poise. They took a little bit of our spirit away.”
Shouldn’t have happened. The Warriors are a couple losses away from playoff elimination — basically they’re done — but they can say they beat the Nets twice this season. The Nets are playing for something, but you wouldn’t have known by the lack of effort, energy and defense late in the game.
They let Anthony Morrow — who? — grab a key offensive rebound. And when the game was in the balance, the Nets down two in the final 20 seconds, they let Ronny Turiaf grab an offensive board that led to two Stephen Jackson foul shots.
Those aren’t the plays that cost the Nets. There were many. You don’t have a 25-point swing and then have the game come down to two or three plays.
The Nets hurt themselves from the line, where they missed 13 of 36 free throws. The Warriors were 39-of-48 from the foul line. The Nets hurt themselves inside where they were out-rebounded, 54-38. They hurt themselves with their shot selection, point production and their defense.
The Nets scored a season-high 67 points in the first half and gave up 63 in the second half, 49 coming in the last 17:11. The Nets were just 15-of-41 from the field after halftime.
“We had a let-down and it kind of steamrolled on us in that third quarter,” Frank said.
Where was Vince Carter? He was taken out of the game by foul trouble and never established himself. It seemed the Nets were fine, especially up 14 at the break, despite Carter scoring just seven points and ahead by 14 in the third with him still stuck on seven.
It wound up the Nets needed Carter, who was 5-for-18 and when he hit a layup with 47 seconds left in the game it was his first basket since the first period.
The loss wasn’t on Carter. It was on all the Nets for not being able to sustain what they did in the first half when they were aggressive on both ends.
The Warriors are an undisciplined team, taking rushed shots, bad shots, forcing passes, but with the game on the line they looked more together than the Nets.
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.).