Derrel “Jazz” Johnson, SNYNets.com
NEW YORK — The Brooklyn Nets were flying high only a couple of weeks ago, having defeated the New York Knicks at Barclays Center in the first ever “Battle of the Boroughs.”
At 9-4, the Nets had the same record as the Knicks but were technically in first place in the Atlantic Division by virtue of the tiebreaker.
Two wins later, at 11-4, the Nets looked like a contender in the Eastern Conference. But now, less than three weeks later, the team has lost eight of its last 10, and, according to their all-star point guard Deron Williams, may have lost some toughness as well.
“It’s like we’ve lost a bit of our toughness,” Williams said after the Nets second loss to the Knicks in eight days. “We need to get it back. We’re frustrated, we have to change some things, we have to get better… It is on us as players.We have to come out with more energy and more focus.”
Frustration was mentioned by Joe Johnson. “I think we are a confident group but it is frustrating because it is a tale of two halves. We play good in the first half and in the third and the fourth quarter we are not running our sets defensively.”
Ironically, the third quarter began well for the Nets Wednesday night. Williams exploded for nine points in the first five minutes of the third quarter, and the Nets led by four, 61-57. But the Knicks would go on an 18-4 run that would give them a 10-point cushion, highlighted by four dunks by Knicks center Tyson Chandler.
Future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd talked about the impact of the dunks by Chandler. “For the dunks for Tyson, the energy in the building gets going. When he gets baskets like that it puts all the pressure on the defense.”
The defense struggled at times with the Knicks, and was as inconsistent as the team has been this season. Carmelo Anthony—who is averaging 37.0 points in three games against the Nets—talked about Brooklyn’s defense.
“Tonight was an easy double team,” he said. “They were double teaming as soon as I was coming across half court. When you take two guys with you, you move the ball to find the open man.” Nothing the Nets have tried against Anthony has worked, but you never want to hear an opposing player use the word ‘easy’ while describing your defense.
If toughness is something the Nets have lost, Reggie Evans and Gerald Wallace are the guys that need to lead the charge to regain it. Wallace, a former all-star who once averaged 19.4 points a game, doesn’t seem to have a consistent role in the offense. Coach Johnson and Williams, along with Wallace, need to figure out a way to change that.
Evans has seen a dip in the minutes he is playing over the last three games, and if toughness is in question, it is probably because Reggie is not on the floor. Arguably the best pick setter in the league, Evans has the ability to free up shooters and provide extra possessions with his offensive rebounding ability.
Over the next five games, they need to improve, and quick, as they have a tough road back-to-back facing the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder. This poor streak, of course, began with back-to-back losses to the Miami Heat and Thunder.
D-Will is correct, the Nets need to regain their toughness, and soon.
If not, their inaugural season in Brooklyn may become a lost one.