CHICAGO – MarShon Brooks, the Brooklyn Nets’ second-year shooting guard and deep reserve, was on the floor for the entire fourth quarter of their Game 3 loss to the Chicago Bulls Thursday night at United Center. It wasn’t a bad 12 minutes in what otherwise was a clunker: Down 17 points with 8:35 left, the Nets outscored their hosts 20-6 the rest of the way.
Brooks (two points, two rebounds) was part of that in a stint that coach P.J. Carlesimo said was better than his individual numbers. He even was in the middle of Brooklyn’s last gasp, passing up a 3-pointer contested by Chicago’s Luol Deng to set up C.J. Watson, open in the right corner, for one that missed.
So maybe Brooks – who got more opportunities on a bad Nets teams as a rookie (29.4 mpg, 12.6 ppg) than on this season’s upgraded squad (12.5, 5.4) – could be an “X” factor for a team struggling to score.
“To be thrown into the fourth quarter, that’s probably the most intense part of the game,” the 24-year-old product of Providence said Friday at the team’s hotel. “I would like to play more and if I play more, I feel like I would contribute more. Especially when we have a hard time scoring – that’s kind of what I do.”
To a fault, frequently. Brooks is considered a liability on defense and he can frustrate teammates with his black-hole tendencies. He benefits from “backup quarterback syndrome,” with a segment of Brooklyn fans clamoring for him, wanting increased minutes and scoring chances because he has so much, y’know, potential.
But even Brooks knows that isn’t likely to happen.
“Honestly this year, it is what it is,” he said before the Nets’ video session and meeting. “I’ve been kind of a last-resort guy. If it’s not working for everybody else, that’s when they throw me out there. That’s just the way it’s been. … Down by 10, we need a spark, throw me out there.”
Guess what? The Nets are down by 10 figuratively, trailing in a series 2-1, home-court advantage gone and showing no sustainable offensive breakthroughs. They have shot 34.9 percent in the two losses (21.4 percent from the arc). In a span of 13:45 across the first and second quarters Thursday, Brooklyn took 25 shots, missed 24 and got outscored 28-4.
Sure, Chicago’s halfcourt defense is stifling. That’s a given. It still is on Carlesimo, his staff and the players too to add wrinkles to their attack and iron out ones that don’t belong.
One issue has been the high number of pipefitters and bricklayers on the Brooklyn roster. Reggie Evans, Gerald Wallace, Keith Bogans, Kris Humphries and aging Jerry Stackhouse aren’t exactly lithe offensive thoroughbreds – they’re relative Clydesdales and they have largely been neglected by Bulls defenders, who instead load up on Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez. Yet those guys, coming free, haven’t made Chicago pay with put-backs and second chances.
“If they are going to load up,” Carlesimo said, “we have to get offensive rebounds and take better care of the ball.”
Anything else? “We can set better screens,” the Brooklyn coach said. “Spacing, too. … When our bail-out spots are what they’re supposed to be, we should be able to move the ball. Because they load so much to the strong side of the floor, there’s usually at least one extra guy there. If you position yourself where you’re supposed to be, there should at least be a pass available.
“When you don’t space it well, when you don’t set solid screens, when you don’t set sides of the floor against them, you don’t score. Against other teams, you can not do those things and still overcome it. You can’t overcome it against a really good defensive team, which they obviously are.”
Carlesimo said he would alter his starting lineup only if Johnson, battling plantar fasciitis in his left foot, were unable to play. But he did say he would go to his bench sooner or tinker with player combinations if points continue to trickle in. Brooklyn can’t simply wait and hope it replicates its offense from the series opener (55.8 percent shooting, 106 points in the Game 1 victory). Too much unpredictability.
“We’re not unique but we’re at times our own worst enemy and at times it’s refreshing,” Carlesimo said, “the fact that there’s not always a correlation between what we’re going to do tomorrow and what we did yesterday.”
That might offer a glimmer of hope even for the last-resort guy.