10:10 am Dec. 26, 2012
Did that win on Sunday over the 76ers mean that coach Avery Johnson and the Nets figured things out, after losing eight of their previous ten games?
The Nets were routed Tuesday afternoon at the Barclays Center, losing to the Celtics 93-76, and falling to a record of 14-14. And little changed on Wednesday night against the Milwaukee Bucks, 108-93, when they played without Deron Williams, who finally took time to heal his numerous injuries.
Johnson had attempted to shake the roster up, demoting Kris Humphries in favor of a faster, smaller starting lineup, with former small forward Gerald Wallace at power forward, and shooting guard Keith Bogans at small forward.
In the second quarter against the Celtics, the Nets just looked tiny.
The Celtics, trailing 26-22, had a group that included Kevin Garnett at center, Jared Sullinger at power forward, Jeff Green and Courtney Lee at wings, and Jason Terry as the lone guard. Shortly after taking the lead, they went even bigger, substituting forward Paul Pierce for Lee.
The Nets rarely got second chances when they missed, which they did frequently. The Celtics, meanwhile, made a series of high-percentage shots, punctuated by a Jeff Green dunk, that gave them a 32-29 lead.
Johnson responded by replacing his underized second unit, with four starters re-entering the game at once. He parried Boston's large lineup with center Andray Blatche, Gerald Wallace at power forward, and the starting backcourt of Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. Jerry Stackhouse was shortly thereafter replaced by Bogans, giving the Nets their starting five to counter the Celtics' run.
And then the Nets got blown off the court.
The Celtics had open shots everywhere, from an easy Green floater in the lane to a Garnett make from twenty feet out. Jason Terry got to the basket with ease, then compounded the insult to the interior defense by grabbing his own offensive rebound. The Nets didn't manage a second-shot opportunity once in the entire sequence, while the Celtics built a 49-34 lead. There often wasn't a single Nets defender between the Celtic ballhandler and the basket.
The Nets stabilized, and even cut the Celtics lead to eight at one point in the third, but never really challenged the rest of the way. Small or large is sort of beside the point when the star point guard is taking only seven shots and has nearly as many turnovers as assists, or when the star shooting guard delivers a 4-for-14 performance from the field, or when an offense as a whole turns the ball over 20 times, while the defense allows the Celtics to shoot 6-for-10 from three-point range.
The Nets have some real personnel problems right now. Perhaps some time off can allow Williams to heal and return somewhere closer to the elite level he played at for years before coming to the Nets. And maybe Brook Lopez can regain his more explosive, early-season form.
In the meantime, the Nets will continue to tinker with the lineup. But apparently that's not going to be enough.