Thursday, April 19, 2012

19/4 - Knicks at Nets

It was scheduled as a Nets home game, the last time the two would clash before they shared New York. However, there were so many Knicks fans in the building that Melo started getting MVP chants down the stretch. It's not going to get any better when the Nets are in BK, because it'll be even easier for Knicks fans to flood the arena without having to travel interstate.

But on to the game... this one was a snoozer, in that I came dangerously close to falling asleep while I was watching it. I have a tendency to root for either the underdog or a superstar player to do something special, and whilst the first quarter was thrilling, with Melo absolutely dominating with 18 effortless points, the Nets spent the rest of the game doubling him for the most part, and the Knicks' outside shooters tore them apart with 35 3-pt attempts at last count.

So yes, it wasn't really a close game, even though after both teams cleared their bench with two minutes remaining the Nets couldn't miss a shot and brought it within 8 with under a minute to play.

Gerald Wallace was the only Nets player who really wanted this one, it was his return from injury and he was hungry, negating the mismatch Melo usually has starting at the 4 with his own length/strength. Unfortunately, Melo can pick on people his own size just as easily, and Wallace was in foul trouble for most of the second half. I've always been a big fan of Wallace, and so long as he's prepared to accept a three-year deal for a little less money to play in Brooklyn I can see him being a key part of a playoff push should the Nets keep Williams around.

The Nets have absolutely no Cs right now. Lopez is obviously hurt, but Jordan Williams is carrying a LOT of extra weight, is a poor helpside defender and was absolutely abused by Tyson Chandler on both ends, whether it was Chandler rolling to the basket for easy dunks, or getting countless tapouts to open shooters, pulling down offensive boards and going up or just generally protecting the rim defensively - the Nets simply had no answers.

I want to say straight out that the Nets are the worst defensive team I've seen in a long time, they have a few decent individual defenders, but their rotations and help on D is laughable. Humphries is a joke of a PF, he "hustles" because he's chasing a contract, but on the defensive side of the floor he has no concept of defending the pick and roll, and on one play Chandler set a really soft screen on the ball then rolled right to the basket and Humphries just doubled the ball, leaving Chandler literally wide open for a pass and dunk. I cannot overstate how terrible the Nets are at stopping dribble penetration and defending the pick and roll.

There were a few things worth commenting on in this game, namely the clash between Gerald Green and J.R. Smith, they both took different routes to end up where they are out of high school - prime examples of wasted talent, but seemingly maturing with age. They are both ridiculous athletes, and in the early fourth quarter they were trading buckets, Green isolating against Novak the first two times and getting off clean jumpers, and Smith going right at Green on the other end. The battle more or less ended with Smith switching onto Green defensively and not giving him room to get off a shot comfortably. It was a win for Smith, but I did wonder who I'd rather have on my team; Green seems a lot more humble after his stint in the D-League, and has embraced life as a role player off the bench, whereas Smith's ego has only grown after a season in China where he was allowed to jack up whatever shot he wanted. That said, Smith is a lot more polished with his handle, defense and ability to create his own shot. Given they are both the same age (26) and shouldn't have theoretically entered their primes, it'll be interesting to see if either of them can build on what they've accomplished this season to return to relevance in the NBA.

MarShon Brooks seems to be in Avery Johnson's doghouse as he spent a lot of time on the bench and couldn't really find a rhythm. He made a few nice moves early to attack the bucket, but fell in love with his midrange jumper and was fading away on the majority of them. Brooks is a player who needs to be humbled just a little, you can tell he was a scoring machine in college, but he needs to accept that he has a long way to go and needs to continue to improve to be successful in the NBA. Defensively, Brooks is a terrible individual defender, and gets pushed around by more solidly built guards. If he can put on some muscle, improve his shot selection and buy-in defensively, then he has a bright future, but I'm still a bit so-so on whether that will (or should) be with the Nets.

Iman Shumpert was solid defensively, making Brooks work for his points, but he's another guy who needs to be taken WAY down to earth. He was quoted as saying he could deny Michael Jordan the ball as well as anyone, and would accept the challenge to make him uncomfortable. While sure what he's saying is true if taken at face value in that he could probably deny Jordan as well as anyone (that is to say, not at all) and would certainly accept the challenge (unsuccessfully), the implication was that he feels he would have been a "Jordan stopper". Of course, Mike made a point of annihilating anybody who claimed they could stop him, so it's a shame he isn't still lacing them up so he could bring Shumpert down to earth a bit. You like his confidence, but the accolades he's received as a defender have gone to his head somewhat, and while he shows great potential as a lockdown defender, he still makes plenty of rookie mistakes and gambles too often. I know this isn't really relevant to the game, but the game was so bad, and I only heard this yesterday, so I figured I'd throw it in.

The cross-town rivalry didn't go out with a bang, but a fizzle, after 35 years of battling each other, the final game was a joke, the majority of the Nets are counting the days until the season is over, and their franchise player was wearing a suit.

The Nets are dead, long live the Nets.

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