NOH@NJN 11.12.07

Hornets Sting Nets


By: NBASCOUT / Special to netsinteractive.com


New Orleans 84, Nets 82


East Rutherford, NJ, Nov. 12 — Byron Scott returns triumphant! In a remarkable game the Nets worked hard enough to prevail in, they found a way to lose in the final seconds, 84-82. It was not just those few seconds that did New Jersey in. It was New Jersey\’s play during the last four minutes and twenty-five seconds that sunk her fortunes. Careless, sloppy play including failing to hit critical free-throws during the last 4:25 of regulation and during the final 42 seconds of the game ultimately proved New Jersey\’s undoing.

While, there are many positives to take away from this contest for the Nets, winning isn\’t one of them. The Hornets came to the Meadowlands with something to prove. They\’ve had a very good start to their season so far and it is no fluke. They now move to 6-2 on the season as New Jersey falls to 4-3.

New Orleans\’ Coach Byron Scott had the Hornets swarming all evening, but just as the Nets felt they\’d escape with a hard-earned victory, they now must feel like they stepped on a hornet. Coach Lawrence Frank will have to carefully remove the stinger and administer psychological first-aid before heading up to beantown for another round with \’gang green.\’ Boston and New Jersey square-off again Wednesday.

The major good that came from this hard-fought battle for New Jersey is that they learned that they can hang with any opponent without the services of star Shooting-Guard, Vince Carter, at least for the time being. Most importantly, rookie Power-Forward/Center Sean Williams seemed to emerge. He didn\’t disappoint in his first extended action of the young season.*

In fact, he was instrumental in bringing New Jersey back from a sizable deficit into a lead and probably should have played \’til the very end. (He was pulled with a minute to go in favor of C Nenad Krstic with the score at 82-81 in favor of NJN.)

The rookie finished the night with six points, eight rebounds and four shots blocked in less than 20 minutes. In fact, his defensive presence led the Hornets to frustration as their offense sputtered and literally ground to a halt. Sean\’s impact altered the game.

All the same, New Orleans came back from an eleven point deficit within the final five minutes to close out a Hornets\’ victory with 2.6 seconds left on the clock. Star Point-Guard Chris Paul put in a runner from the lane in the final seconds to win it for New Orleans.

In a contest where New Jersey was first tied at 2-2 in the opening seconds and then had to claw its way back, bucket-by-bucket, to find itself tied again at 61-61, with only 3:15 left in the third quarter, it was particularly disheartening to see a hard-earned 11 point lead (@ 79-68), with less than five minutes to go, evaporate, and then have to fight in the final seconds for an OT appearance – much less a victory! Two four-point plays down the stretch by New Orleans killed New Jersey!

Nenad Krstic had a chance to be the hero and put the Nets up by two with a pair of free throws with 42 seconds remaining, but he clanged both off the back iron to win the \’goat horns.\’ He\’s still regaining his touch.

None the less, all that didn\’t matter as super Point-Guard Jason Kidd swooped through the lane to give Nenad another chance by capturing the rebound off the second miss to give New Jersey yet another shot at victory. Krstic couldn\’t convert again on another hurried turn-around jump shot from close range.

At the very end, Antoine Wright couldn\’t hit from the top of the key in the last-gasp moments of regulation and that was the game. He was not a \’closer\’ this evening.

The funny part of this game is that it all got down to how the Nets played the last 4:25. Play it well, and you win. Play it poorly and you go home! It was really that simple.

None the less, a combination of factors led to the Nets\’ demise. You can\’t just put the loss on any one player or part of the team – and that includes the coach. It was a total team failure (coaching staff included).

The team underwent a key breakdown in many phases of the game during the last 4:25. That made it come down to a last shot, which is always a situation you want to avoid after working so hard to take a lead late into a game.

Breaking it down further, the Nets perimeter defense was very poor all night. That\’s reflected in the opponent\’s three-point field goal percentage: 11-17 (.647). Too much of it consisted of a desperate, out-of-position Nets\’ defender running at a Hornet beyond the arc hoping to get a hand in his face to alter his shot. It\’s plagued New Jersey all year. That\’s no way to play perimeter defense. If the existing hands can\’t get it done, then the Nets could use some fresher legs to keep up. Some coaching adjustments may not hurt either.

One of the turning points in the last 4:25 was the unmolested three-point shot that Chris Paul made at that point in the game and a foul-away-from-the-ball by Malik Allen. That was a four-point play for NOH and gave them life. That cut the Nets\’ lead from a daunting 11 to merely 7.

Then after a pair of missed shots by both Wright and Stojakovic at both ends of the floor, the veteran Jason Kidd gets called for an offensive foul and turns the ball over. [Digression of Note: I wasn\’t crazy about them either, but Mr. Kidd, you have to win in spite of the officials.] Chandler then makes his rim-hanging dunk shot off an opportunistic feed by Paul to cut the lead to 5.

New Jersey answers with all-star-in-the-making Richard Jefferson, (also a veteran), who took few shots, and didn\’t score a point in the crucial fourth quarter, missing an open three-point shot, and then squandering the offensive rebound by Sean Williams with a running dunk off the back iron that POPS OUT! (RJ didn\’t get as high as he usually does). That missed New Jersey opportunity led to a crucial David West lay-up off a Chris Paul feed cutting the Nets\’ lead to a bare 3 points. What to do then?

Coach Lawrence Frank elects to send in Jason Collins for Malik Allen with 3:05 remaining. The Nets are still up by 3 and Antoine Wright steals a ball and gets fouled going to the line. He makes only one of two free throws. Even though he didn\’t fully capitalize on the steal, he pushes the lead to 4. That was about it, folks!

West and Paul are clicking. West puts down another shot. This time it\’s a floater that cuts the lead to 2, 78-80. Oh, my! Antoine Wright gallantly pushes it up to 4 again with a jump shot that stays down from the corner, but it is not enough.

Now, Another turning point in the game occurs, with the Nets up by 4, Jason Collins and two other less than alert Nets stand shoulder-to-shoulder around their basket with a defensive rebound and Chris Paul \’picks\’ Jason Collins \’pocket\’ by stealing the ball. [Is this any way to care for a ball-possession?]

Mo Peterson then hits a long-range three from beyond the arc and Jason Collins fouls him. Why was Jason Collins playing perimeter defense? This is another FOUR-POINT PLAY that Peterson converts and now New Jersey and the Hornets are deadlocked at 82. Worse of it, PF Sean Williams, who was really having impact, goes out for Nenad Krstic. It was a final turning point that altered the very dynamic of the game at that juncture.

The Hornets became more confident and aggressive on the offensive end thereafter and Nenad\’s rust on the offensive end didn\’t win the game for New Jersey. Why did Sean go out for Nenad? Why not keep Sean in and send someone else to the bench? Why take out a defensive force that\’s been working?

To his credit, Nenad managed to get fouled, but didn\’t convert any of his foul shots by rushing them and putting too much force behind them. He then missed a second opportunity turnaround jump shot, courtesy of Kidd, that also seemed rushed. On top of that, he couldn\’t block the final basket at the other end as Paul won it for New Orleans going away.

Antoine Wrights\’ desperation heave from the top-of-the-key with microseconds ticking down wasn\’t Carter-esque at the buzzer. To Nenad Krstics\’ credit, if this were last year before his injury, he makes both foul shots and blocks any attempt on the other end. But, he\’s still only 80% (if that much) by his own admission. Why would Coach Frank rely upon him to win it all in the final moments? Isn\’t that too much pressure? … Too much to expect? … Too early on?

Oh, well! What is certain is that the Nets had plenty of opportunities to win! They just didn\’t get it done.


Notes: I don\’t want to be one of the players sitting through a film session with Coach Lawrence Frank breaking down the film of this game. Post-mortems when you lose are no fun.

The only real statistic of note that matters here is that NJN [4-14 (.286)] got out-shot from beyond the arc by NOH [11-17 (.647)]. That was the major difference in the game. In all other departments, NJN held her own. BUT, one more free throw made … Or one less turnover … Or one more three point shot made … Or one more blocked shot … Or one more steal … could have put the game away for NJN.

Nenad Krstic scored his first double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds. It looks like he\’s concentrating on rebounding and defense as he tries to bring his offense around. He\’s been used to more shot-attempts historically.

Richard Jefferson continues his quest to become an all-star. He recorded 32 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and a pair of steals. Jason Kidd barely missed a triple-double with 14 points, 10 assists and 9 rebounds.

Jamaal Magloire and Josh Boone were DNPs. It\’s possible that Coach Frank wanted players that could hit their free-throws and keep up with Chandler and West out there. Still, who can fathom the genius of Coach Frank?

Assist of the night has to go to Bostjan \’Boki\’ Nachbar once again. He penetrated to the basket, and as defenders converged, dished to Sean Williams for a beautiful tomahawk baseline jam. Those two really made a statement with that play!

Special mention goes to Darrell Armstrong once again. He played well in reserve. He\’s a very fundamental, two-way player that hasn\’t lost the quickness and speed to compete.

New Jersey found out that the team from the \”Big Easy\” is not so easy. Antoine Wright got the nod to replace Vince Carter. He played 40 minutes and recorded 12 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and a pair of takeaways.

NBASCOUT is an independent freelance sportswriter that covers the NBA and the New Jersey Nets. He is not affiliated with the National Basketball Association. Copyright 2007 by NBASCOUT, all rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the express written consent of the author. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily this website. You may e-mail NBASCOUT in care-of his wife, who writes for children, at kathyforkids@cs.com

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