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(November 25, 2013)
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.—At some point, someone – whether it be the vocal veteran Kevin Garnett, or the even-keeled coach Jason Kidd, or the savvy GM Billy King – is going to have to grab this team by the back of jersey and pull. Hard!
The Nets endured a dismal week, losing four straight (five going into the previous week) and dropped to 3-10 on the season. They’ve lost 8-of-9 and continue to be ravaged by injuries, which only explains part of the problem.
The Nets have made the same mistakes in their losses. They’ve been outscored by an average of 9.6 points per game in the third quarter of those 10 losses. In the three wins, they’re a plus 9.7.
The third quarter has become so troublesome that it’s become psychologically daunting. Joe Johnson suggested that the halftime breaks should focus on went right in the first and what needs to be cleaned up. Thoughts about the third quarter should remain silent.
“I think now coming into halftime we shouldn’t even say anything,” Johnson said after practice on Monday. “Seriously, we come in at halftime and we’re up five or 10 and we always say, ‘Who are we going to be in the second half?’ Every game. So from here on out, we come in at halftime, down, up that shouldn’t even come up.”
Kidd acknowledged that basketball often is more psychological than physical. So before this third quarter monkey transforms itself into a King Kong-sized ape, someone on this Nets team needs to say, ‘Enough!’
The Nets face a grueling week, playing five opponents (Detroit, at Toronto, Lakers, at Houston, at Memphis) in four cities, sandwiched around Thanksgiving.
The only good news is that the Nets get the Lakers without Kobe Bryant (Achilles heel) and the Grizzlies without center Marc Gasol (knee).
Here’s a look at the Nets’ gains and losses and what to look for going forward.
MESSAGE PENDING: Kidd said that he did not intend to send a message Sunday afternoon in the fourth quarter of the 109-97 home loss to Detroit when he pulled all of his starters in favor of Mirza Teletovic, Jason Plumlee, Alan Anderson, Tornike Shengelia and Tyshawn Taylor.
“It wasn’t a message,” said Kidd. “It was the group that needed to play. They played well. They played well in Minnesota. And they got us back in the game.”
When Kidd used the lineup against the Timberwolves, the Nets were down 30. But they were down 16 against Detroit. It would have taken a remarkable comeback but the Nets weren’t out of the game. Yet Kidd went to his reserves.
“They deserved to play,” Kidd said after the game. “I should have let them play the whole game or the whole quarter.”
Message or no message, how the Nets respond this week to Kidd’s lineup moves might be one of the keys to the season.
M.A.S.H.: The rash of injuries continues at a demoralizing pace. Lopez and Garnett sprained their ankles on the same play against Phoenix on Nov. 15. Lopez hasn’t played since. He was ruled out of the Toronto game.
Williams had just returned from a sprained left ankle, only to reinjure it in the Nov. 20 game in Charlotte. He has not played since. He didn’t make the trip to Toronto.
It seems unlikely that either will play in the upcoming back-to-back games against Toronto and L.A. Perhaps one, if not both, will be ready for the Nov.29th game at Houston.
Andrei Kirilenko remains out with back spasms. Jason Terry remains out with a knee injury.
And Shaun Livingston was ruled out against the Raptors after experiencing concussion-like symptoms after bumping heads in the Detroit game.
KINDRED SPIRITS: Williams, who has sprained his left ankle twice this season, said it’s frustrating. But the news that Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls will miss a second straight season after suffering another knee injury.
“I’ve been feeling sorry for myself, you know my injuries, and I don’t know what he’s going through right now,” said Williams, who acknowledged that Rose took a year off to rehab. “He looked great out there. [To] go down again with another season-ending injury, it’s got to be tough for him. Praying for him; wishing him the best.”
HOT HAND: Johnson was having trouble finding his place in the offense but that changed against Detroit. Johnson scored 34 points, the most in his Nets career, and hit a career-high eight, 3-pointers.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Kidd was asked about any changes he might make in the team’s halftime routine in order to stop the third quarter meltdowns.
“We can stay on the floor and not even go to the locker room,” said Kidd. “It’s something that we all are aware of and that just shows that we know we have to get better in third quarter and we know we will.”