Tagged: Rajon Rondo

Five things that cost the Nets a playoff spot

carter_250_040909.jpgThe Nets lasted in the playoff race until April 8, which is about four months longer than everyone expected.
Kidding aside, the amazing thing is after their start, sitting at 19-19 after 38 games, the Nets probably should have lasted a little longer, maybe even made the playoffs.
First of all, the Eastern Conference, outside of the top three teams, is weak. Secondly — and every team can do this — think about all the games the Nets should have won, all the games they gave away. They should have had a better record.
Of course, the flip side is you look at the games maybe they shouldn’t have won that they did. Sometimes they even out, but in this case, I don’t think that’s true.
All that said, here are five things that cost the Nets a playoff spot:
1. No Homecourt Advantage
The Nets are tied for the seventh-worst home record at 17-22. They were the last team standing with a losing home mark. Of those 22 losses, eight came against teams that will finish the season with sub .500 records, including two each against the Wizards and Raptors. They lost 13 games at the Meadowlands by double-digits.
2. Late-Game Collapses
The Nets’ record in close games is misleading. It’s not terrible. They’re 6-4 in games decided by two points or less, 6-8 by three or less and 8-10 by four or less, but many of those defeats have come recently — six since March 1. Also, some games were close late, but the opposing team pulled away to make it look more lopsided than it was: think Portland, Cleveland twice and the Lakers — all since March 1. If the Nets executed better down the stretch, they might have more than a few more wins.
3. Little Forward Production
The Nets got 22 points from their starting small forward last season. Their two starting small forwards this year, Bobby Simmons and Trenton Hassell, averaged 7.8 and 4.5 respectively with the first team. Their power forwards, Yi Jianlian and Ryan Anderson, have scored 9.1 and 8.2. Yi only averaged about 6.2 after returning from a broken right pinky in February. For the most part, the offense was designed to highlight them, but they got open looks. None currently are in the top 50 in scoring — among forwards.
4. Too Many Nights Off
The Nets didn’t show up twice against Washington, once against Toronto, Indiana and Milwaukee — all at home. They also didn’t come to play at Oklahoma City, at the Clippers, at Minnesota and in the second half at Golden State. Only Indiana has a better record. There probably are some games we’re missing, but you get the point. Considering how well the Nets played early and how bad other teams were, we’ve come up 10-12 games they should have won on paper that they lost. Now before the season it may not have been a third of that. Regardless, the too often Nets didn’t play with a sense of urgency. They are 18-17 against teams with below .500 records when they met and 20-19 against sub .500 teams currently.
5. Defense rests
This team used to rely heavily upon defense. Now the Nets can’t stop anyone. (If Celtics guard Rajon Rondo played the Nets every game he would be an All-Star.) They no longer have stalwart defenders or at least guys who accept the defensive challenge and their team defense hasn’t been good. The Nets are 8-36 when allowing at least 100 points and 24-10 when holding teams under 100. The math seems pretty simple: guard every night.
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.).