The Nets are digging themselves the kind of hole that could prove very difficult to climb out of. After giving away a game to an undermanned Miami Heat team on Tuesday night, the Nets ventured to Eastern powers Toronto and Cleveland to try to change their fortunes.
And even though the script differed in both road contests, the movie ended in the same way: with a loss. The Raptors clobbered the Nets in the fourth quarter on Wednesday, and the Cavaliers barely hung on, 95-91, on Friday. While Lionel Hollins can find some moral victories in the loss to Cleveland – not that he’s looking for them – the concerns are still there.
The Nets are finding all sorts of ways to lose games. Injuries, turnovers, and an overall lack of defense are plaguing Brooklyn right now. Even with a healthy Brook Lopez, the Nets roster is underwhelming. A majority of the Nets are not delivering complete games, which is why Hollins has shuffled his lineup so often. Players like Lopez, Mirza Teletovic, Jarrett Jack, and Bojan Bogdanovic have delivered terrific offensive statlines at times, but their defensive lapses are impossible to ignore.
On the other hand, a player like Alan Anderson gives the Nets their best perimeter defender, but he has not contributed nearly enough offensively to warrant staying on the floor. This catch-22 is making life difficult for Hollins in his first year as the team’s head coach.
At 10-15, the Nets have just one win over a .500 team (San Antonio Spurs). And in the loss to LeBron James and the Cavaliers on Friday night, Deron Williams exited after just 10 minutes with a strained calf.
”My calf felt tight in the first quarter and it hurt pretty bad when I landed after making an assist,” Williams said. ”I don’t want to miss any games so hopefully the test comes back good.”
Williams will get an MRI on Saturday.
The Nets dropped to a full 10 games behind the Atlantic Division leading Raptors. They also fell to 9th in the Eastern standings courtesy of a Boston Celtics’ win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
This is the East, though. And the Nets are still going to make the playoffs mainly because they want to. They’ve spent the money, meanwhile most of the conference is looking at ways to gain ping pong balls.
“There are a lot of teams in our division that are in the same boat as we are, trying to find their way,” Hollins said. “And there’s three or four good teams in the Eastern Conference — and when I say good teams, I mean teams that are consistently on their games.”
Unfortunately for the Nets coach, if his team keeps playing this way, they’re going to face one of those four teams and get throttled in the first round. He admitted after the Heat loss that “we’re not good enough right now” to put together a string of wins. But will another slow start to the season (opened 2013-14 at 10-21) force the Nets into an undesirable matchup situation come April?
On the positive side, the Nets played arguably as well as anyone in the league once the calendar turned to 2014 last season. Conversely, the Nets of last year had far more depth. The Nets have also played a fairly easy schedule to date. Come mid-January and February, the schedule will do Brooklyn no favors. The Nets will need to keep “treading water” as Hollins put it just to remain relevant if they don’t experience the same kind of resurgence as last year.