12:02 pm Dec. 11, 2012
The Brooklyn Nets, who began the season with 11 wins in 15 games, are now looking for answers after losing four straight games, ahead of a Tuesday night matchup against the New York Knicks at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Friday night, the Nets couldn't stop the Golden State Warriors on the defensive end, allowing 109 points in Brooklyn. Worse yet, what had begun as an offensive battle became one-sided, with the Nets shooting 14-for-40 in the second half. It was the team's third consecutive loss, and the Barclays Center crowd was restless in the fourth quarter, and hostile when it was over.
Following the game, MarShon Brooks sat at his locker for a long time, staring at the paper box score a Nets employee had handed to him. He was looking for something, though it was unclear what it had to do with him: he played just three minutes, taking a single shot, in the 109-102 loss.
As for Joe Johnson, who began the game in dominant fashion, and went on to score a game-high 32 points in the loss, his befuddlement over the team's struggles.
"I have no idea, man," Johnson said in response to a question about the team's failings, standing morosely at his locker following Friday night's game. "It just seemed like they made a substitution, and for whatever reason, they made a run. When you get a team down, you've got to learn how to put them away."
But Sunday night, the Bucks, and not the Nets, seemed to take Johnson's words to heart. The Bucks jumped on the Nets, built a 29-point lead in the third quarter, and beat the Nets, 97-88. Boos rained down on the Nets as they exited the court.
Johnson and Brooks switched roles. Johnson scored a season-low six points, and got benched by Nets coach Avery Johnson in the third quarter. Brooks made the most of his opportunity, scoring 14 points in 21 minutes of 4-for-5 shooting, and getting to the free throw line five times, making them all. He made sure when he stared at this box score, he'd be properly represented.
Still, the Nets lost again. They've been playing without Brook Lopez, out with an injured foot. But to simply ascribe the recent tailspin to that would be to ignore the all star numbers put up by Andray Blatche in Lopez's absence. Going back six games, in fact, Blatche is averaging 17.2 points and 10.3 rebounds per game in just under 29 minutes of action, shooting 52 percent, and even throwing in a pair of steals per contest for good measure.
Accordingly, Johnson is tinkering with the lineup, but hasn't quite figured out how to replicate the 11-4 start. Reggie Evans got a start over Kris Humphries at power forward on Sunday. And the Nets could go small against the Knicks in Brooklyn Tuesday night, with Gerald Wallace playing power forward and either Brooks or C.J. Watson joining a three-guard lineup.
“We’re still evaluating that,” Johnson told the New York Post of his possible starting lineup. “We’re evaluating it. We’ve got a couple of things that we’re thinking about. We’ll make that decision and we’ll let you know.”
And the results on the court will let Johnson know if he needs to keep tinkering, or simply hope for Brook Lopez to return, and for both of his shooting guards to lay well in the same game again.