An impossible team to gauge and asses, the 2013-14 Brooklyn Nets. A day after beating the NBA champions without having to travel too far they lose 115-111 to the tanking Orlando Magic, as the question marks around this team’s ability to perform consistently in a playoff series are raised once again.
We can throw all the numbers at someone, and especially the one stating the Nets are the best team in the East in 2014. It doesn’t really matter. Some teams can put in the effort and focus for one game a week against an opponent they feel is worth their effort, but when it comes to playing every two days against the same one and having to find that energy from somewhere, the Nets’ prospects of doing well in these playoffs don’t look too good all of sudden.
Joe Johnson did scored 31 points to make the game close, but guys like Mirza Teletovic and Deron Williams seemed quite intent on not being team players and simply blasting their way through a rough patch. Williams hit only 3 of his 14 shots while Teletovic decided he’d be J.R. Smith and attempted 12 3-pointers, finishing with 5-of-17 from the field. The Magic, maybe the most talented of the tanking teams, and have beaten the Thunder and the Pacers at home this season, seized the opportunity of a good team playing badly.
The Nets have matchup problems with some teams, sometimes trying to play with five perimeter players on the floor. Kevin Garnett is back in action (playing 17 minutes) but it’s quite clear he isn’t going to be able and give the team too much when the playoffs arrive. As a 16-24 road team who isn’t going to catch the Bulls or the Raptors for a 4th or 3rd seed in the East, that has to be slightly worrying.
The Nets ooze confidence after wins, maybe even arrogance. The experience on this team makes them feel as if coasting through some games is what helps them win the really big ones. They might be right, and their season sweep against the Miami Heat is an excellent indication of that. Their defense is equipped to handle small-ball quite well, but the Heat aren’t exactly like everyone else, and they too have the ability to play a little better with more at stake.
Arron Afflalo scored 25 points to lead the Orlando Magic who shot 55.8 from the field and 45.8% from beyond the arc. It was only their bad free throw shooting that helped the Nets stay in the game. The Nets moved slowly on defense, and it wasn’t just about matchup problems, but about simply playing badly.
Four games over the next seven days shouldn’t prove too taxing for this team and some resting will do some players a world of good. But it won’t erase or answer the questions and doubts raised after another baffling performance, which isn’t a good sign heading into the postseason.