HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Though the Brooklyn Nets lost to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, it was a game that may have legitimized the new-look Nets as a top-four team in the Eastern Conference.
The game was on the road against a championship contender. And though the Lakers still have a long way to go before they’re playing at their best, the Nets still withstood an incredibly hot start from Kobe Bryant and a big game from Dwight Howard to take a six-point lead in the fourth quarter.
Though they blew that lead in the final minutes, it was a solid performance overall and a big improvement over their 30-point loss at the hands of the Heat two weeks ago. Though the Nets won five straight games in between, these are the games that they will be measured by. The Nets have more of these games in the next couple of weeks, and this was one they can build on.
|Nets efficiency, by quarter|
Through Tuesday, 11/20
It was also a continuation of a fascinating trend. The Nets won the second quarter 34-27 and lost the third quarter 20-16, helping them maintain their standing as both the best second quarter team and the worst third quarter team in the league.
The Nets have won seven of the nine second quarters they’ve played and have won five of them by double-figures. They’ve lost eight of their nine third quarters and have lost three of them by double-figures.
If Avery Johnson needs to work on his halftime message, it’s unclear on which end of the floor he needs to focus, because the contrast between the Nets’ second quarters and third quarters has been both offensively and defensively.
The contrast may be a product of who’s on the floor. And if you compare second-quarter minutes with third-quarter minutes, you find that Deron Williams is the guy with the biggest difference, 54 minutes in the second quarter and 99 in the third.
Overall, Williams has the worst on-court numbers in the Nets’ rotation (not including Gerald Wallace, who has played just three games). The All-Star point guard is a minus-18 and the Nets have been outscored by 5.1 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor.
The answer isn’t as simple as saying that the Nets are better with Williams on the bench, because he’s a plus-32 in the second quarter. Really, it could be an issue of who Williams is on the floor with.
In the second quarter, Williams has been the point guard. Only nine of his 54 second-quarter minutes have come with back-up point guard C.J. Watson on the floor. But in the third quarter, Williams and Watson have shared the floor for 41 minutes. The Nets are a minus-39 in those 41 minutes and are just a minus-9 in 67 other third-quarter minutes.
Watson has been a spark off the bench at times for the Nets, and Johnson likes a small lineup of Watson, Williams, Johnson, Wallace and Brook Lopez. But the early numbers show that Johnson may have to stay away from a Watson-Williams backcourt, especially if he wants his team to get stops defensively.
Nets efficiency with Johnson, Watson and Williams combinations
|Johnson & Watson & Williams||73||108.9||136.0||-27.1||-26|
|Johnson & Williams, no Watson||195||104.8||98.7||+6.0||+22|
|Johnson & Watson, no Williams||60||120.9||86.0||+34.9||+38|
|Watson & Williams, no Johnson||39||82.2||116.5||-34.3||-25|
Considering the competition, Tuesday’s third quarter was actually one of the Nets’ best of their nine games so far. Not coincidentally, Watson and Williams didn’t play together in that period. But they were a minus-8 in eight total minutes in the first and fourth quarters.
It will be impossible for Johnson to avoid using a Watson-Williams backcourt completely. Williams is going to average 35 minutes per game and Watson needs to play more than 13. So, if the Nets are truly going to compete with the best teams in the league, the pair will have to figure out their issues as the season goes on.