Nets implode in second half, give up game 111-109 as Demarcus Cousins scores 40.
If I’m being honest, I went into this game still high from the Nets’ victory against Houston on Wednesday. While largely a fluke of a win, moments of genuine improvement shone through, and I was thinking that, perhaps, the Nets could ride the wave to beat the Kings tonight. Last week on our podcast, I said Brooklyn “had a shot” if Cousins wasn’t playing, due to an achilles strain he suffered against the Clippers on November 1st. But unfortunately for Nets fans, Cousins was playing, and after a week of rumours about his relationship with the Kings organisation, he was playing angry.
The game actually started out promisingly. And I’m not talking for just a few minutes – the first two quarters were very impressive by the Nets. They exhibited purposeful ball movement and quick defensive rotations. The Kings’ offense looked sloppy, and Cousins started out shooting just 1/10 from the floor (although he made 8/8 free throws). The Nets seemed very much in control, finishing the half 60-54, and even made some exciting plays, such as this Johnson-Rondae alley-oop:
And then their was the spine-tingeling Thad Young left hand dunk:
And, my favourite, the moment when Brook and Demarcus got romantic:
The second half was where it all went wrong. Bargnani checked into the game. Lopez got into foul trouble. Random players started isolating. And, need I remind you, the Nets have NO DEFENSE. Because they need Lopez on the floor on offense, their other “bigs” (Thaddeus and Bargnani, ugh), are required to step up and take fouls for him. They didn’t, and Demarcus slammed on them to score 19 consecutive points. Boy, is that man impressive. George Karl bizarrely pulled him from the game after his 8 straight makes, and he stormed off in a tantrum. Make no mistake, this Karl-Cousins feud is very much alive.
Hollins made some infuriating decisions. He seemingly instructed Joe Johnson or Jack to isolate whenever they pleased. The Nets had the lead in the first half because they played good team basketball – why change?! But the move that really puzzled me was that the Nets didn’t fight to get the ball inside and get Demarcus in foul trouble ASAP. Demarcus had three fouls at the half – when he had just 10 points and hadn’t started dominating yet. He eventually fouled out of the game, but with just 43 seconds left, and with the Kings squarely ahead. The Nets could have driven to the basket and made it happen much earlier. After all, Demarcus was playing angry. It would have made a world of difference.
However, looking into the advanced stats, Demarcus Cousins did not appear all that vital for this Kings win (apart from, of course, as a force to fire up his team and the crowd). He finished with a Net rating of just 1, while Quincy Acy lead the way with a stellar 32.7. On the Nets side, Wayne Ellington had the best net rating (but played only 14 and a half minutes). Joe Johnson had the best rating in significant minutes, with a 8.9. In addition, Andrea Bargnani had a dismal rating of -38.1, while Bogdanovic – who often looks great by the “eye test” but rarely holds up to statistical analysis – finished with a -9.9.
True, this game was close, and the Nets covered the 6.5 spread, but with Cousins out of the game in the final minutes, and several opportunities provided by nice RHJ defense, they should not have let this happen in their last chance to tie the game:
Again, the Nets fumbled the ending. They had a chance to build on their Rockets win, and blew it. Tomorrow will be an incredibly difficult game against the breath-taking Golden State Warriors (Warriors favoured by 18.5). They will likely leave Oracle Arena with a 1-9 record. At least we have seen glimpses of Brooklyn playing like an actual basketball team in these past two games, and perhaps this tough 10 game stretch against Western opponents will help them put away easier teams in the future. However, as a longtime Nets fan, I’m not counting on it.