The Vince Carter watch is on.
Actually, it has been since right before the trade deadline. Then, it was a matter of where he was getting traded. Now, it’s a matter of how he finishes off what could be his final season as a Net.
It would be disappointing if Carter doesn’t finish the season strong. This has been one of his better all-around seasons, particularly as a leader, facilitator, spotlight sharer, encourager, father figure, baby-sitter and teacher.
Now Carter has a chance to get the Nets into the playoffs when no one expected they would. It’s what Carter wanted and what’s driven him all season. It would be a fitting cap to his season, if not his career as a Net.
It’s time for him to seize the moment like he did in his first season with New Jersey, when he and Jason Kidd carried them to a 15-4 finish and playoff berth on the last day of the regular season.
Only 18 games remain after the Nets wasted a chance to catapult themselves into the eighth and final playoff spot in the East last night, blowing a 14-point third-quarter lead at Golden State.
The Nets have to try and rebound against Portland, ironically. It was one of the teams that the Nets were talking to about Carter before the deadline. This could have been his first game against his old team.
The Blazers have won 12 of their last 13 home games so tomorrow is going to be a tough one for the Nets, probably the toughest one on the trip and it got even more difficult after they let a victory slip away last night.
The Nets needed Carter to do more. They need everyone, but at this time you always look to your leaders and best players.
Foul trouble hampered him and for the first time his body language wasn’t that positive.
Carter was surprised and frustrated by foul calls and that definitely had an impact. But he’s got to withstand that, show that nothing bothers him. He’s the captain, the true leader on the Nets, and they needed him to be better.
Carter hit three field goals in the first 9:23 and didn’t hit another until 47 seconds were left in the game. In that time, he missed some layups, but for the most part they were jumpers.
Carter, and the rest of the Nets, should have attacked the basket more.
The Warriors lead the NBA in blocks, but for the most part their porous defensively. They also allow the most points in the NBA. Talk about an oxymoron. Get in the lane, get fouled and get points from the line.
Carter only took two foul shots on the night and they didn’t come until about six minutes remained in the game.
When Carter struggled a couple of weeks back, it was revealed his right elbow injury was much worse than he was letting on. He injured his knee Sunday against the Knicks, but said before the Nets left for the trip that he was fine and after last night’s game that he’s fine.
Maybe it’s worse, too, but last night looked more like Carter was frustrated and ultimately out of it, which the Nets can’t afford.
They’re tied for 10th, one-half game out of the playoffs and one-game up on the Knicks and Pacers. So there is plenty of time as it seems this race will come down to the wire.
The Nets’ best chance of making the postseason is if Carter starts taking over games like few can. We haven’t seen that happen in a long time. Devin Harris has done it and it’s been effective. But when Carter does it, the Nets usually are tough to beat.
This is the time. Everyone is watching and waiting for Carter to stand up.
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)
Everything 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.).