Moke Hamilton, SNYNets.com
NEW YORK — The Brooklyn Nets has lost three games in a row and desperately needed a victory against the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday night. In the first quarter, D-Will and co. looked like it, opening the game on an 11-2 run and playing with urgency.
But by the end of the night, the Nets were soundly defeated by the Bucks, despite MarShon Brooks' spirited contribution.
In the end, the Nets couldn't overcome a sub-par performance from Joe Johnson.
Although it came in a loss, Johnson entered Sunday night's contest coming off of a season-high 32 point performance in the Nets previous game against the Golden State Warriors. Johnson entered Sunday night's contest averaging 20.8 points per game over his previous four outings and hoped to continue his strong play.
Unfortunately, that wasn't the case.
Johnson played 30 mostly forgettable minutes, shooting 2-for-8 and scoring just six points.
Afterward, he was noticeably frustrated.
"Sometimes the ball finds you and sometimes it doesn't," he said. "There's no passiveness on my end. When I get the ball, I try to be aggressive and make plays, but I try to make the right play."
To his credit, Johnson didn't force any looks and he did have four assists, but even still, the Nets won't be able to win many games in which he fails to score at least 15 points, especially without Brook Lopez.
Afterward, Avery Johnson concurred. "We need Joe's production," he said. "Joe is a guy, in my mind, when I wake up on a game day morning, I'm thinking we're going to have 18 points, at the least, because that's what he's capable of."
And as far as Joe's reference to the ball not finding him, Coach Johnson seemed to agree that some of Joe's issues are systematic. "I have to make sure that I get him in positions where he can function properly," coach Johnson said. "And I just think when he gets his shot, he has to take it... I would rather him shoot and miss than to ever hesitate."
One guy that didn't hesitate for the Nets was MarShon Brooks.
Brooks played only 11 minutes over the Nets past four games, however, down by 23 points with 9:04 remaining in the third quarter, coach Johnson called Brooks' number and he responded. Thanks to Brooks and Gerald Wallace (16 points, 16 rebounds), the Nets found new life in the third quarter, closing a 29 point lead to as little as 15. The momentum carried over into the fourth, where the Nets outscored the Bucks 33-22. The team managed to cut what was once a 29 point deficit to just six points with 3:03 remaining in the game, but ultimately, the Nets were unable to get over the hump.
Brooks played 21 minutes in the second half and scored all 14 of his points in the game's final two quarters. He shot 4-for-5 from the field, but more impressively, made good decisions with the ball. Brooks broke down the Bucks perimeter, penetrated and moved the ball fairly well. He and Wallace were two of the few bright spots for the Nets.
"Offensively, I think he did okay," coach Johnson said afterward. "He came in and gave us some energy offensively, at that point we were just searching."
Brooks spoke about his performance after the game. "I knew my time was gonna come eventually," he said. "I'm happy I was able to come out there and help the team a little bit, provide that spark a little bit."
"We just needed a little energy, today was just one of those games where we didn't come out with the right energy. We just decided at halftime that we were gonna come out and fight as hard as possible."
Unlike the Nets loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder back on Dec. 4 though, there is no moral victory to be had here. The Bucks backcourt sorely outplayed the Nets, as Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis combined to score 50 points on 16-for-32 shooting. Johnson and Williams, on the other hand, combined to score 24 points on 10-for-27 shooting.
"Teams are gonna come in here and try to make a statement," Joe Johnson said afterward. "It's unfortunate, we're on a tough slide right now, we gotta put it behind us."
The Nets have now lost the first three games of their four game homestand, with the finale coming on Dec. 11 against the New York Knicks.
Deron Williams knows that it's imperative for the team to rebound and give a better effort against their intra-city rival. "It is very important," he said. "We are struggling right now and [the Knicks] is a team that is playing good basketball, so we have to be ready to go."
As the Nets continue to search for answers until Brook Lopez returns, they're continuing to deal with questions about Joe Johnson's poor performances and the team's recent defensive deficiencies.
Wins heal all wounds, though. And certainly, a win against the Knicks would go a long way toward lifting the spirits of the suddenly mediocre looking 11-8 Brooklyn Nets.