OAKLAND – Before embarking on this tough three-game West Coast road trip – by far the toughest three-game stretch early in the season – there was unanimous agreement among the Brooklyn Nets that they would learn a lot about themselves.
After Thursday night’s 107-99 loss to the Golden State Warriors, following a 112-104 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night, this is what the Nets have learned:
They are NOT a Western Conference team. And they can’t expect to be successful this season if they play like a Western Conference team.
In both losses there were alarmingly similar trends. For about one half the Nets went basket for basket with their Western Conference opponent.
It was fool’s gold.
“The question is, ‘Can you keep up with us?’’’ said former Nets point guard Shaun Livingston, who now plays for the Warriors.
The answer was no.
The Suns increased their tempo in the second half. The Warriors increased their tempo in the second quarter, outscoring the Nets 34-19.
As the Warriors and Suns put their foot down on the gas pedal, the Nets abandoned their team-offense principles and became a stagnant, isolation team.
The loss dropped the Nets to 4-4. They play another Western Conference powerhouse Saturday night when they face the Trail Blazers in Portland.
The defining moment came with 49 seconds left in the half. Andre Iguodala went the length of the court, unchallenged, and threw down a monster slam dunk. Golden State, despite getting just two points in the first half from All-Star Stephen Curry, led 65-55.
To the Nets’ credit, they played much more like an Eastern Conference team in the second half, holding Golden State to 41 points. They closed to within 93-88 with just under six minutes remaining.
“I think they’re at their best when they grind it out and try to make it ugly,’’ said Livingston. “They did that in the second half and it was successful.’’
The Warriors pulled it out by grabbing several of their 14 offensive rebounds late and by scoring eight of their 30 fast-break points in the final four minutes.
KEY MATCHUP: The point guard showdown featured Deron Williams, the Eastern Conference Player of the Week, against Stephen Curry, the Western Conference Player of the Week.
It was a draw. Williams scored 18 points, had five assists and four rebounds. Curry, who had just two points at halftime, finished with 17 points, five assists and three boards.
NETS’ GAINS: The Nets knew they had acquired a smart, veteran point guard when they acquired Jarrett Jack over the summer. Jack struggled in the 112-104 loss at Phoenix. He had more turnovers (5) than he had field goals (2).
Jack showed his mental toughness. He put the Phoenix game in the rearview mirror and responded with 21 points on 10-of-10 shooting. He’s the first Nets player since Josh Boone in 2007 to make at least 10 field goals without a miss.
KEY MOMENT: Road fatigue reared its ugly head late in the second quarter. Mason Plumlee missed a two-footer. Draymond Green grabbed the rebound and went the length of the court for a layup.
KEY STATISTIC: The Warriors made 40-percent of their three-pointers in the first half (6 of 15) and 11 of 34 for the game. The Nets missed all five of their threes in the first half and were 3 of 16 for the game.
TALK: Golden State coach Steve Kerr on Kevin Garnett, who is in his 20th NBA season. “He’s incredible. I was just watching their game from last night and you see him switch out on a lightning quick 25-year-old point guard and stay in front and force a turnover or force a bad shot and then clap his hands and talk a little trash. He’s still got that fire and that edge and the ability to defend and control a game emotionally at times. He’s remarkable what he is still doing.”