By Steve Lichtenstein
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Basketball really isn’t all that complicated.
The talk around the Nets, who came into Wednesday night’s game versus the Wizards feeling good after winning four of their last five games, was how coach Jason Kidd had “simplified” the game plan following the reassignment of assistant coach Lawrence Frank.
Well, the outcome of last night’s game at the Barclays Center did come down to one simple factor — the team that wanted it more emerged victorious.
And that would be Washington, whose 113-107 win enabled them to sweep the two downtrodden teams in the borough in a three-day span.
The Nets, on the other hand, had to be shaking their heads when leaving the floor, wondering how they blew another opportunity to right their ship.
There are no excuses this time. Not injuries, coaching, the refs.
This one was all about one team outworking the other for the vast majority of the game. Washington was hungrier and ate the Nets for dinner. Forget 50-50 balls—it was more like 80-20 in Washington’s favor.
The Wizards outrebounded the Nets to the tune of 51-31. They grabbed an unreal 19 off the offensive glass, which they turned into 23 extra points.
And I can’t even blame Frank for the Nets once again failing to understand the mathematics of the three-point line. Washington hit nine of their first 12 three-point shots and finished with a 60 percent shooting efficiency from deep.
While Washington’s defenders scrambled ferociously to run the Nets off the three-point line for most of the night, the Nets opened the game with point guard Deron Williams running under screens to allow John Wall to get hot early, which makes him much more difficult to guard.
Then there was the usual help-defense cheating towards the paint, which resulted in open looks for the Wizards’ gunners like Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster.
Lucky for the Nets that owner Mikhail Prokhorov can’t demand refunds on a fraction (1/82) of his record payroll for his team failing to show up, at least for the first three-plus quarters.
Like what happened in Detroit last week, it took that long for the Nets to figure out they were in a basketball game. And once again it was too little, too late.
The Nets had cut what was once a 12-point Wizards lead to one in the last two minutes and forced a missed shot, but Washington center Marcin Gortat chucked Nets forward Kevin Garnett aside for the easy put-back. Then, after Williams misfired, Nets forward Paul Pierce lost sight of Beal, who cut to an open spot on the wing for the three-point dagger with 1:08 remaining.
All of this neglect on the defensive end overshadowed the progress the Nets are making with their attack. Center Brook Lopez returned from his ankle sprain after a two-game absence and scored 22 points on just 11 field goal attempts. Pierce, coming off the bench again, for the first time in a Brooklyn uniform looked like the player the Nets traded for in scoring 27 points on 10-of-12 shooting from the floor. Guard Joe Johnson also put up 20 points while Williams finished with 15 points and 13 assists.
The ball was moving from side-to-side and Williams, except for a few careless turnovers, did well to control the pace, especially in the fourth quarter when Kidd went with his Billboard Five virtually the whole way.
That showed that Kidd wanted this game bad, probably a lot more than his players did.
Kidd was affected by Garnett’s foul troubles, since Garnett’s presence is essential to offset Lopez’s defensive deficiencies. The Lopez-Andray Blatche pairing has often been troublesome, given both players’ apparent allergic reaction to dirty work.
Not even a Reggie Evans sighting in the third quarter could spark a rejuvenation in the Nets’ work ethic. Evans, who had six DNP-coach decisions in the Nets’ last 12 games, always gives you effort, but is too much of an offensive liability.
I would have rather Kidd gone with Mirza Teletovic, who went from starting in Monday’s win over Philadelphia to one not-particularly-effective 9-minute second-quarter run last night. Still, the Nets are better off giving Teletovic opportunities where he can alter games with his long-distance shooting, which also improves the Nets’ overall offensive spacing rather than having Evans (or Mason Plumlee in prior games) clog up the paint.
Fortunately, the Nets get the tanking Sixers again tomorrow night and, even if rookie Michael Carter-Williams returns to action, this will be a golden opportunity for the underachieving 9-16 Nets to start a new winning streak before the schedule toughens in the next couple of weeks.
They just have to keep it simple—play hard right from the start.
For a FAN’s perspective of the Nets, Jets and the NHL, follow Steve on Twitter @SteveLichtenst1.
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