Josh Newman, SNYNets.comNEW YORK — A 25-game sample with an entirely new roster is not enough to say whether or not the Nets' season is heading towards the abyss, but this latest 10-game stretch isn't likely to inspire anyone.
On Wednesday night, Carmelo Anthony had a triumphant return, Tyson Chandler put on a one-man dunk fest, the Nets interior defense was largely nonexistent and in front of a pro-Knicks crowd at Madison Square Garden, the Knicks downed the Nets, 100-86 and took a 2-1 lead in the season series.
The Knicks, who closed the game outscoring the Nets 43-27 over the final 17:06, have now won 10 of 12 and five of their last six. The Nets, on the other hand, have now dropped eight of their last 10 after an 11-4 start.
Anthony—back after missing the last two games with a sprained right ankle—led four Knicks in double figures with a game-high 31 points while Chandler scored 16 and shot 7-for-11 from the field.
Of Chandler's seven makes, six of them were dunks and of those six, five came by way of alley-oops off of pick-and-rolls.
For the Nets, Joe Johnson scored 17, while Brook Lopez and Deron Williams each finished with 16. Williams scored 11 of his 16 in the third quarter.
"I think they're going to remain confident," Nets head coach Avery Johnson said. "We are going into a three-day break, it's coming at a much needed time. We need to get some practice time in and we'll get back on the practice court Friday and Saturday, get some work done and figure out where some of our issues are."
Another poor second half
The second half continues to be a horror show during this 2-8 month for the Nets. On Wednesday after halftime, the Nets scored just 38 points, shot just 44.2 percent (19-for-43) and allowed the Knicks to shoot 47.6 percent, including 57 percent from 3-point range.
Wednesday's second half comes on the heels of a 92-90 home loss to the Utah Jazz on Tuesday which saw the Nets score just 33 points in the second half. In that game, the Nets blew a 13-point halftime lead.
"We didn't do a good job tonight on the shooters," Williams said. "We didn't do a good job of keeping them off the 3-point line. We were helping a lot at the basket and were leaving them wide open."
Lobs on lobs on lobs
Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler have been one of the NBA's top pick-and-roll combinations this season, but that got taken to another level against a porous Nets' interior defense.
In the third quarter alone, Chandler had four dunks. Of those four, two came from pick-and-roll situations with Felton, with another coming off a pick-and-roll with Pablo Prigioni.
"It's momentum builders for us, confidence builders," Anthony said of all the alley-oops. "When he gets alley-oops, it opens a lot of things up out there on the basketball court. Raymond's being aggressive with the ball and most of the time it works."
A lot has been made in recent days about Williams' struggles in Avery Johnson's offense and what it's going to take to get over the hump and get it together.
A 16-point, 10-assist effort on Wednesday was quietly his ninth double-double of the season, but it was a bit of a struggle early to get there.
In the first half, Williams shot just 1-for-3 and scoring two points. He did, however, dish out seven assists.
In the third quarter, the three-time All-Star began to pick it up. In that period alone, he shot 5-for-7 and scored nine of 11 points inside the first 5:06 to give the Nets their biggest lead at 61-57 with 6:54 to go in the third.
That time frame would be Williams' brightest spot as the Knicks ripped off an 18-6 to close the third quarter and take control for good.
Stackhouse could go Sunday
Avery Johnson said during his pregame media availability that Jerry Stackhouse, who has been inactive the last five games with a sore right knee, may play on Sunday when the Nets host the Philadelphia 76ers.
Johnson indicated that it's wait-and-see on Stackhouse with the team set to practice on Friday and Saturday, but Saturday appears to be the key day to determine whether or not Stackhouse can go.
Stackhouse injured the knee on Jason Kidd's game-winning 3-pointer on Dec. 11 when the Knicks beat the Nets, 100-97 in Brooklyn. Before the injury, Stackhouse had unexpectedly emerged as a key figure off the bench, averaging 6.8 points in 18 minutes per game while shooting a gaudy 43 percent from 3-point range.
With his 31 points on Wednesday, Anthony is averaging 37.3 points per game in three contests against the Nets this season....The Nets' starting lineup of Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and Lopez, which was the projected starting lineup in the preseason, is now 6-3 on the season....The Nets are now 1-7 when allowing the opposition to score 100 points or more. When the Nets hold an opponent to less than 100 points, they are 12-5....The 11 points Keith Bogans scored were a season-high, as were his minutes (21), 3-pointers made (3) and 3-pointers attempted (5).
"It's very frustrating because it's like a tale of two halves. We play pretty good in the first half and then in the third and fourth quarters, for whatever reason, we're just not bringing it or running our sets. Defensively, we're not sticking to our principles and it's hurting us." — Joe Johnson
Josh Newman is SNYNets.com’s Field Reporter. Follow him on Twitter for up to the minute news and banter on all things related to the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA