Matching up with the Miami Heat is never an easy task. It is even more difficult when your team happens to be without its best and most versatile defender. That is exactly what Gerald Wallace is to the Nets. Also known as “Crash”, Wallace is also Brooklyn’s toughest player (not including Reggie Williams, who brings toughness and not a whole lot else). Gerald can fill up the stat sheet in every category and, without him, Brooklyn will need guys to step up big time.
That is not exactly what happened in their third game of the season. Although the Nets are a new team after being relocated to Brooklyn, the results would show that not a whole lot has changed. After Wednesday’s blowout loss to the Heat (103-73), the Nets have now lost 11 straight games to Miami. But should the Nets be worried? Yes, and No.
The Miami Heat are the defending champions; and I would not expect any team that faces them to win without one of its best players. With that being said, there weren’t a whole lot of positives to take away from this game for Brooklyn. Avery Johnson, head coach of the Nets, was concerned with the team’s defensive effort during the pre-season and in training camp. This game was a clear example why. The Heat shot 52% from the field and 42% from beyond the arc. Miami was able to do almost whatever they wanted with Wade and James combining for 42 points and Rashard Lewis contributing 13 off the bench.
In a game when the Nets still had their two best players, you would expect them to elevate their games, not only for the competition that they were up against, but also to fill the void left by Wallace. Deron Williams and Joe Johnson were well short of doing just that. Together they had 23 points on 11-29 shooting and only 4 assists and 3 rebounds combined. This is where the Brooklyn coaching staff should be concerned. While 19 total turnovers as a team isn’t necessarily an awful night in the NBA, Deron Williams’ 3:7 assist to turnover ratio is quite frankly, pathetic. This is not the kind of game an all-star player should ever have.
But before we write off Brooklyn for the entire season we must keep in mind that they have only played three games. The good news is that it can’t get much worse than this performance for the Nets. If there is anything to keep their hopes alive, it is that Brook Lopez was able to contribute 8 points, seven rebounds, and a block in only 20 minutes. Kris Humphries also added a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds while playing only half of the game. The Nets had a size advantage inside, but this was soon forgotten when the Heat used their quickness to get out in transition and convert easy buckets in the opening minute of the game.
Even an NBA team at full strength needs their bench to come in and put some points on the board. This is an area where the Nets will be at a disadvantage. CJ Watson has played well so far, but even he struggled in this game shooting only 1-5 and totaling 2 points, 2 assists, and 3 turnovers. Marshon Brooks is a player that can really shoot the ball and ignite this team with energy and points off the bench. He finished with a solid 12 points on 5-7 shooting in 18 minutes.
The NBA season is far from short, and with 82 total games the Nets will have plenty of opportunities to prove they can compete with the league’s best. A franchise transformation does not happen overnight. A good team does not become great without getting a beat down every now and then. Did I mention they were playing the best team in the NBA? If there is anything for certain, it is that this team will not give up. And you can be damn sure that Avery Johnson will have his team well prepared to play their next game.