(December 19, 2013) BROOKLYN—
It would be easy to look at the 30-point home loss to the Knicks or the 24-point home loss to the Nuggets or the 4-point overtime loss in Washington earlier this season and declare: That was the worst loss of the season for the Brooklyn Nets.
For my money, Wednesday night was the worst.
Wednesday night the Nets – the healthiest they’ve been since that 112-108 OT loss to the Wizards back on Nov. 8 – got outhustled and outworked by Washington in a 113-107 loss at Barclays Center.
Not only were the Nets physically healthy, they were emotionally buoyant. They had won 4-of-5.
The players were lauding coach Jason Kidd for simplifying things. Paul Pierce was thriving in his new role as sixth man. And the schedule had gift-wrapped a stretch of games for the Nets during the holiday season that elves couldn’t have topped.
Finally, the Nets were looking like the team we had expected, that they had expected.
It didn’t matter that the Atlantic Division looks as if it went down with the Titanic.
The Nets were taking care of the Nets, as it ought to be.
This 6-point loss to the Wizards doesn’t sink anything, but the Nets went back to dry dock Thursday.
The original schedule had the Nets not practicing today. They were scheduled to travel to Philadelphia, attend a private team advance screening of the movie, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Friday night they had another chance to swing the stick at the piñata known as the 76ers.
The Nets embarrassed the 76ers, 130-94, on Monday night, proving once again the NBA needs a mercy rule.
But when you get outrebounded, 51-31, and you allow the Wizards to shoot 60-percent (12-of-20) on threes, you don’t get a day off. You practice. Not as punishment, but because clearly there are some issues that need to be addressed.
Defending the 3-point line has been an issue all season. Rebounding, and defending the paint, has been issues all season.
In the past those flaws could be partially explained away by the rash of injuries that depleted this team throughout the first third of the season. But the team on the court in the final key minutes was comprised of Johnson, Garnett, Lopez, Pierce and Williams, the projected starting five coming into the season.
After the game, Kidd acknowledged that this was one that got away.
“We lost a game we felt we could control,’’ he said. “When they get that many offensive rebounds, you can find yourself in a close game or you can find yourself losing, and that’s what we did tonight.”
There’s always a danger when a team has, even if it’s in the back of its mind, the perception that there are games that should be controlled.
The Nets are 9-16, looking more out of control than in control this season. They had a chance to continue building momentum, continue to close the gap with the Boston Celtics for first place in the Atlantic Division.
They had a chance to go into Monday night’s showdown against the Indiana Pacers with an 11-16 record, a three-game win streak and winners of 6-of-7.
They had a chance to face the Pacers, 20-5, feeling great after Joe Johnson’s 37-point performance against the 76ers and Paul Pierce’s 27-point performance against the Wizards.
"It's easy to sit here and talk to you guys about what kind of night I had, but bottom line, I really don't care,’’ said Pierce “We lost the game. That's pretty much all that matters. We come out here and try to win as a team.
“It's not about how good Paul Pierce is scoring. We had the inability to rebound, we didn't defend the three, and it cost us the game. That's all that I'm worried about right now."
Agreed. That’s why, with all the Nets had going, including a home game against a young Washington team still putting the pieces together, this was the worst loss.