Tagged: playoffs

Playoff hopes keep slip slidin’ away


Nets-3-27-250.jpgEAST RUTHERFORD – Another game, another MVP candidate, another loss for the Nets, but it was a little different than the last two.
 
LeBron James beat the Nets the last two games with his shot or with his ability to make plays late. Last night against the Lakers, reigning MVP, wasn’t the catalyst during crunch time. Kobe Bryant was scoreless in the fourth. How often does that happen?
 
Doesn’t matter? All that matters is the Nets couldn’t capitalize, lost 103-95 and improved their chances of being in the NBA Draft Lottery.
 
Ten games remain and the Nets are 4 ½ behind the Pistons for the East’s last playoff spot. As if they weren’t already, now every game really is a must-win, especially the two against the Pistons and one against the eighth-place Bulls.
 
The Nets have to beat the teams they’re chasing, especially since they can’t beat the ones near or at the top of the conference.
 
They’ve played a few of them lately, and this game followed a similar script as the prior two against Cleveland. The Nets’ opponent built a double-digit lead and New Jersey had to fight back just to make it competitive.
 
They were down 14 in the first half of this one, tied it in the third, allowed a 24-2 run to fall behind 81-59 and then closed to within three with 2:19 remaining. But the Nets couldn’t finish it off – again.
 
It’s one thing if Bryant was making the plays, but he wasn’t. He missed all four shots he took in the fourth and scored zero points in the period. But Pau Gasol didn’t miss much and Lamar Odom got the biggest rebound of the night, resulting in a stick-back and a five-point lead.
 
Gasol was brilliant, making up for Bryant’s 5-for-19 game. Gasol was 14-for-19 and finished with 36 points and 11 rebounds. Bryant only had 14, about half his average. But the amazing thing is the Lakers improved to 8-1 when Bryant scores under 20.
 
This proves that the Lakers aren’t just Kobe and the Bryants. They are a team that knows how to win, even if their best player is off. And they proved that to the Nets twice.
 
The Lakers beat the Nets in L.A. in November when Bryant was held to 12 points on 5-of-17 shooting. L.A. won that one going away – a 27-point defeat. You can say the Nets have gotten better, but what does that get you at this point?
 
“We’re running out of time for these consolation prizes,” coach Lawrence Frank said.

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There are no consolation prizes. The Nets lost and keep losing. It doesn’t matter that they’re playing good teams close – not at this point of the season.
 
If it were December or even January, you could say the clichéd these are games they can build on. It’s March and they’re not building on these losses. They’ve beaten only one team with a winning record in March.
 
If you’re going to make the playoffs, or at least give yourselves a chance, you have to20win some of the games you’re not supposed to win. The Nets have played a bunch of them, played them close, and have nothing to show for it.
 
The Nets did get Devin Harris back. He missed the past five games because of a shoulder injury. Harris had 13 points and 14 assists but his return couldn’t lift the Nets enough.
 
Now they get a little reprieve with Minnesota and Milwaukee upcoming. The Nets have to win those games unless they exhale after playing all those title contenders, which would be inexcusable.
 

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

Nets could be fading fast after another loss

Nets-3-16-300.jpgThe Nets’ four-game West trip ended rather anticlimactically, except for Sean Williams’ being arrested.
 
After losing at the buzzer Sunday night to the Clippers, the Nets had little left for Denver and you wonder how much they have left in this season.
 
Without Devin Harris, the Nets hardly put up a fight against a team they beat by 44 points last month. You knew the Denver Nuggets would want revenge and the Nets let them have it. They just handed it to them, and were annihilated 121-96 to end the trip in predictable fashion.
 
The Nets came home 0-4 when they easily could have gone 2-2 or 3-1. They led in the fourth quarter of the first three games and were in the game in the final minute of all three. This one wasn’t much of a game. The Nets played catch-up most of the night and then just laid down, giving up 72 second-half points and were just manhandled inside.
 
With 15 games to go, the Nets are 11 games under .500 for the first time. They’re all alone in 12th place when they could have been in eighth or at least tied for eighth if they finished some of the games on this trip.
 
Vince Carter was brilliant for the second straight game, following up his 41-point game against the Clippers with 32 last night. But he needed help. He missed Harris. All the guys in blue and in the suits on the visitor’s bench did.
 
But this isn’t about the loss of Harris. It’s about the loss of another game and how they lost it. It wasn’t as bad mentally or emotionally as the prior three against the Warriors, Blazers and Clippers. It was bad physically.
 
This was going to be a tough game to win without Harris, but the Nets made it easy for the Nuggets by showing no toughness inside, no fight on the boards.

“We just got dominated inside with our inability to hit bodies and get the ball,” coach Lawrence Frank said on the YES Network. “[We showed] such little resistance on the defensive boards.”

It was embarrassing how Denver dominated the boards, especially the offensive glass. Through three quarters, the Nuggets missed 46 shots, field goals and free throws combined, and they collected nearly half of those misses with 21 offensive rebounds ..
 
Overall, the Nets gave up 25 offensive rebounds, were minus-20 on the boards – minus-19 on the offensive end – and the points in the paint were a ridiculous 62-24. It came down to the same things we always talk about: urgency, effort, desire and for the most part the Nets showed none of that.
 
Maybe they still were feeling the effects of the Steve Novak buzzer-beater the night before. It’s very possible yet not acceptable. It’s about having a short memory and playing with a purpose and the purpose is to get in the playoffs.
 
The Nets now are just one-half game up on No. 13 Indiana and two games out of the playoffs. They better start winning games quickly, and perhaps without Harris for the time being. They’re now 1-6 without him.
 
Harris will have an MRI on his left shoulder today. The Nets can’t afford bad news, but it wouldn’t be surprising based on the events of the last week.
 
They lost three winnable games – two they should have won – lost their leading scorer and lone All-Star and had their suddenly contributing athletic second-year big man thrown in jail after a reported altercation in a Denver mall.
 
The Nets had a few chances to climb in the standings out West and did nothing but move down, suffering one awful defeat after another. The Nets talk about having a short memory. They have to have one now. Yet you have to wonder how much they have left.
 
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)