Josh Newman, SNYNets.com
NEW YORK – With almost an entirely new, $330 million roster, no one expected these Nets to have everything go smoothly every night. But 51 games into the season, some of the same problems are occurring, the Nets are still finding ways to fold and cough up games in spectacular fashion and now, more than ever, it appears these things are alarming.
On Sunday evening in a 111-86 loss to the San Antonio Spurs, the Nets watched a 12-point first half lead vanish as Tony Parker put on a show, scoring 29 points to go along with 11 assists against zero turnovers.
A 10-0 run in the middle of the third quarter got the Spurs back in the game, a 9-2 run to close the third gave the Spurs control for good and the Nets were sent looking for answers, a trend that is becoming all too common for a roster whose owner says needs to advance to at least the Eastern Conference Finals.
As has been the case this season, the third quarter was the Nets’ undoing. This time, they were outscored, 30-14, in the third and 60-29 in the second half after taking a 35-25 lead after one.
“It’s us, it’s all us, this isn’t the first time we’ve unraveled in the third quarter when things went bad,” said Gerald Wallace, who has been critical publicly of the team’s shortcomings in the past. “The third quarter has been our nemesis. Tonight, we went back to old habits and the outcome is the outcome.”
The truly alarming thing to onlookers might be the lack of a response when things begin to go south and Sunday was a prime example.
The 9-0 Spurs run at the end of the third quarter, capped by Parker driving through the lane, drawing the defense and dishing to Boris Diaw for a layup, put the Nets down 81-71 going to the fourth quarter. To that, there was no answer.
A C.J. Watson floater opened the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to eight, but Parker, Diaw, Matt Bonner and Gary Neal combined to rip off the next 10 Spurs points over the course of three minutes, 34 seconds to take a 91-75 lead with 7:22 play.
It should be noted that the Spurs, now at an NBA-best 40-12 on the season, accomplished this without the services of Tim Duncan (sore left knee) and Manu Ginobili (left hamstring tightness).
“When things start to go bad, instead of fighting back, we kind of hang our heads and do the opposite,” said Deron Williams, who finished with 15 points, three assists and was thoroughly outplayed by Parker. “It’s just a mentality we’ve developed, which is bad and we gotta get better at that.”
Williams continued, “It’s almost like we have two different teams and you’re just guessing which one’s gonna show up on a given night.”
Of the Nets’ 22 losses this season, 14 have come by double-digits. Of those 14, eight have come by 15 points or more. With that said, the near-future isn’t likely to provide much relief.
Sunday’s game against the Spurs began a stretch of seven straight games for the Nets against teams that are at or above .500 at the moment. They have to turn right around and play at the Indiana Pacers on Monday before heading back to Barclays Center to host the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday heading into the All-Star Break.
A home-and-home with the Milwaukee next Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, will open play after the All-Star break before they host the Houston Rockets next Friday and the Memphis Grizzlies on Feb. 24.
While the Nets have handled bad teams, going 18-2 against under .500 squads, they are just 11-20 against teams at or above .500 after the Spurs loss.
“When things go bad, we kind of drop our heads and instead of pulling together as a team, we go in five different directions out on the court and it shows,” Wallace deadpanned. “I think there’s enough fight (in the locker room), but the fight, right now, is in the wrong direction. Everybody is wanting to fight individually instead of pulling together as a team and us fighting as the Brooklyn Nets. We’re trying to fight as 15 individual guys out on the court and I don’t care who we have, we’re not gonna win playing individual basketball.”
Josh Newman is SNYNets.com’s Field Reporter. Follow him on Twitter for up to the minute news and banter on all things related to the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA