Moke Hamilton, SNYNets.com
NEW YORK — For every pro, there's a con and it seems like the Brooklyn Nets are doing their best to remind their fan base of that.
Despite the good effort and a healthy rotation, the Nets delivered yet another gut punch to its fan base, dropping an utterly winnable game despite an efficient offensive outing from Joe Johnson (21 points, 7-for-15 shooting) and a good showing by a still returning to form Brook Lopez (16 points, five rebounds, three blocks in 30 minutes).
The Nets dropped a 92-90 decision to the visiting Utah Jazz on Tuesday night. With the loss, the Nets fall to 13-11 on the season and a very mediocre 8-6 at Barclays Center.
After the loss, coach Avery Johnson stormed into his post game press conference and was obviously frustrated.
"In the third quarter, we turned the ball over six or seven times," he said. "We were awful to start the third quarter. You can't score unless you get shots at the basket. We didn't get shots at the basket in the third quarter, that doomed us for the rest of the game."
Deron Williams agreed. "It was another bad third quarter," he said. "We had a sizable lead again, we just came out flat. We had a couple turnovers and we were careless with the ball."
The Nets led by 13 points at halftime before playing yet another poor third quarter. The Nets allowed the Jazz back into the game and enabled Mo Williams (19 points, six assists) and Al Jefferson (16 points, 11 rebounds) to make a few big plays down the stretch to steal the victory.
With six minutes remaining in the game, Mo Williams converted a transition three pointer to give the Jazz an 82-80 lead—it's first since it led early in the second quarter, 30-29.
From there, the Jazz would never trail and they collectively did exactly what the Nets couldn't—make big plays down the stretch.
Derrick Favors blocked a potential game-tying dunk from Lopez with the Jazz nursing a two point lead and converted a jumper on the ensuing possession to push the lead four, 84-80. And although the Nets would cut the lead to two points a total of five times down the stretch, each time, the Jazz had an answer.
With just less than two minutes remaining and the Nets trailing, 90-88, Deron Williams was isolated on the right baseline against Mo Williams. As Deron went to make his move, Mo guessed correctly and found himself in position to attempt to draw a charge against Deron. D-Will appeared to slightly extend his arm and Mo fell to the hardwood, drawing a critical charge call.
After the game, when asked if the call was frustrating, Williams said it was. "Very," he said. "Especially since I didn't think it was enough to be a charge."
Even still, up by four points with 31.6 seconds remaining, the Jazz turned the ball over on their final two possessions. The second of those turnovers saw Joe Johnson steal an errant Al Jefferson pass with 9.9 seconds remaining. Gerald Wallace ended up missing what would have been the go-ahead three-pointer with less than five seconds to go in the game. Reggie Evans rebounded the shot and missed the game-tying bank shot at the buzzer.
Barclays Center was silent.
Just over two weeks ago, the Nets were riding high. Winners of five straight games, Avery Johnson's team was 11-4 and atop the NBA's Atlantic division. Since then, however, the Nets are just 2-7 and are now 13-11 on the season.
To make matters even worse, Deron Williams made news on Monday when he was critical of the Nets offensive system and many considered his comments to be veiled shots at coach Avery Johnson. As the Nets head to Madison Square Garden on Wednesday to battle the New York Knicks, though, Avery Johnson and Williams are said to have smoothed things over.
Over the course of a long NBA season, this happens. Teams go through hot streaks and cold spells and sometimes, frustration boils over. The best thing for the Nets to do is stick together and be patient. The early season 11-4 stretch, as well as the victories over the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Clippers and New York Knicks were no fluke. From one through nine, this team is simply too talented to have to sweat out a home victory against the Detroit Pistons or blow a game down the stretch to the Jazz.
When the Nets were winning, they were doing it with good defense, balanced scoring, and good half court execution. With Lopez missing time and only recently returning, it's become obvious that he is a major part of this team's identity and the Nets will continue to struggle until he's able to play without restriction.
Heading into Tuesday's loss, coach Johnson told the media that Lopez's minutes would again be limited, though he didn't say how many Lopez would play. Lopez ended up playing 30 and afterward, told SNYNets.com that he wasn't told that he'd only play a predetermined amount of minutes.
"I don't know if there was a hard number, to be honest with you," he said. "I honestly think it was more a matter of how the game flowed."
When asked if he would be limited against the Knicks on Wednesday, Lopez shrugged his shoulders. "I have no idea," he said. "But I hope not."
Lopez is the key, so for the suddenly struggling Nets and its fan base, they should share that hope, especially since a victory in Madison Square Garden would go a long way toward erasing the memory of a pretty poor stretch for these Nets.