Tagged: defense

Nets fall victim to fourth-quarter lapse

harris_250.jpgEAST 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.)

Better late than never

carter_350.jpgEAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Nets and their fans can get used to this. But not exactly how it happened Monday.
 
The Nets had to do it without Devin Harris in the second half, which they hope doesn’t become a common occurrence. The bottom line, though, is they got it done.
 
It was another come-from-behind victory. It was a first for this season. It was a 98-90 win over the Sacramento Kings that gave the Nets the first back-to-back home victories of this season.
 
“Yeah,” Jarvis Hayes said, “that’s a first, huh?”
 
Amazingly, it is. It took the Nets 19 games but they have a home winning streak. And think about what it took for the Nets to have a home winning streak.
 
They needed to come back from 20 down Friday against the Hawks and needed a Vince Carter 30-foot jumper at the buzzer in overtime to win the first game.
 
Last night, they needed to come back from 13 down, without Harris, and needed Yi Jianlian’s first 20-10 double-double in nearly two months to get the second one.
 
They also needed a stalwart second-half defensive performance to limit Kevin Martin, who embarrassed the Nets with 25 points in the first half.
 
The biggest things they should take out of this is that they can play this kind of defense, and Yi can have games like this. Forget that they’ve been few and far between, especially the Yi part.
 
But the Nets have to make sure they have another strong game Wednesday and do what they can to get Yi involved because it looks like they could be without Harris on Wednesday when Memphis comes to town, and they go for an unprecedented three wins in a row.
 
“We’ve just got to keep it going,” Hayes said. “Collectively, I think we’re playing better defensively. When you have off nights, defense will keep you in the game. On some nights, offense can go up and down, but if defense is consistent, you’ll be in almost all the games.
 
“We’ve played pretty good defense the last four or five games. We just got to keep up the intensity.”
 
The Nets have to try to make sure they don’t fall behind big again, though.
 
You can only come back from that so many times. If they wouldn’t have done so against the Kings, losers of 11 straight road games now, this would have been an awful defeat for the Nets, even if they didn’t have Harris after halftime.
 
They made sure it didn’t happen, though, by holding Martin to 11 points after halftime, and by limiting the Kings to 35 points in the second half – two fewer than Sacramento scored in the second period.
 
The Nets made sure it didn’t happen because Yi played big with 22 points and 13 rebounds, including some huge offensive boards. And because Carter was the perfect playmaker with 17 points and five assists in the second half. And because Josh Boone rebounded and defended, and Keyon Dooling defended and knocked down shots and because Trenton Hassell defended.
 
All of that went into this win against a team that fell to 8-27, which is why it would have been terrible if the Nets would have lost. But they battled and fought and everyone contributed in Harris’ absence. Now they have a home winning streak – two months after their first game here. You know what they say: better late than never.
 
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)  

Mamma mia! Nets serve up win

carter_250.jpg

TORONTO
– Not even four minutes into the game, an ad appeared on the video scoreboard
saying fans would get free pizza today with their ticket stubs if the Raptors
scored 100 points against the Nets. If? That popular Toronto pizza chain was sweating.

After all, the Nets give up 100 points as easily as the site
of Vince Carter incites the fans up here.

Well, Carter was booed, but the pizzeria was cheering. The
Nets played defense perhaps better than they have all season, beating the
Raptors, 94-87, Monday night in Air Canada Centre.

Think about this: the Nets came in allowing 335 points in
their last three games – all losses — and gave up 127 and 101 in two games
against Toronto
this season.

At the time of the ad, the score was 16-2, Raptors. But the
Nets, who improved to 12-11, didn’t quit on the defensive end, especially in
the fourth period when they held the Raptors to 17 points on 4 of 20 shooting.

Few were happier than Carter, because he loves winning in
Toronto, even though the fans were much tamer than the last time the Nets were
here. But the happiest person of all had to be coach Lawrence Frank.

He wants the Nets to be a defensive team first, something
they’ve struggled with this season because they don’t have the type of
personnel they used to have.

The Nets have no lock-down defenders, but he has been stressing team defense, and you saw what the
Nets can do when they play it collectively. Of course, some of the Raptors’
misses were good looks, but for the most part, the Nets contested shots and
played just as hard on the less fun end of the court as on the one everyone
loves.

“Our guys did a great job defensively,” Frank said.
“Usually that’s what it takes to win on the road. It’s not outscoring teams
like we’ve done in prior games. Holding them to 17 points in the fourth quarter;
I thought was tremendous.”

It was.

The Nets looked as if they were headed toward their fourth straight loss. They
had a bad stretch in the third that led to 13 unanswered points by the Raptors
and a 70-60 lead with under a minute remaining.

But down nine early in the fourth, the Nets picked up their
game on both ends. It was Devin Harris starting everything on the offensive end
of the floor and everyone chipping in on defense.

The Raptors opened the fourth period scoring with two free
throws with 10:22 left. Over nearly the next eight minutes, the Raptors scored
just two points. In that time, Harris led the Nets on a 25-2 run with 13
points. Ryan Anderson added seven in the surge that gave the Nets an 88-74
cushion.

It’s not often the Nets will win games with Carter
scoring just four points in the fourth period, especially not in this building,
where the fans bring out his best. But they weren’t badgering him as much, and
he wasn’t needed to score late because of the Nets’ defense.

It gave them the cushion they needed. They avoided a second
loss to the Raptors in four days, a fourth straight defeat and didn’t dip below
.500 for the first time since they were 6-7.

“We were in a desperate need for this win,” Anderson said.
“We needed to get it.”

 Pizza Pizza is relieved, relieved.

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