Last night, you could have fooled me into thinking that the Brooklyn Nets were tanking. You could have told me that it was the Orlando Magic that loaded up on star power in the off-season to create perhaps the most talented team in the NBA, an unmistakable contender in the loaded Eastern Conference. You could have even added that the Magic were coming off an extremely impressive win over the Miami Heat. My eyes would have believed you.
The Orlando Magic manhandled Brooklyn at the Amway Center, rolling to a decisive 107-86 victory. And, to be honest, it looked like the Nets were treating the game like an exhibition. Perhaps nobody told Jason Kidd, making his coaching debut following a two-game suspension, that the regular season had started.
Brooklyn played their starters sparingly–only Brook Lopez saw more than 30 minutes of time on the hardwood and Joe Johnson and Kevin Garnett logged a mere 45 combined minutes. The minute numbers were not a shock. The Nets gave their undeniably old starters plenty of time on the pine in the Nets’ 101-100 win over Miami on Friday (Lopez played 20 minutes and Pierce led the team with 31 minutes of court time) and in their season-opening loss to Cleveland on Wednesday (Deron Williams played only 22 minutes).
What should be more shocking, however, is the fact that Nets looked like they were playing at half speed throughout their contest with Orlando. They looked defensively disinterested and offensively stagnant, nothing like the defensively tough, offensively electric, unselfish team that took down the reigning champs just a couple of nights before.
Look, the Nets clearly put out two totally different types of efforts this weekend. One was a playoff-type effort against an elite team at home. The other was a lackluster performance on the road against one of the league’s most talent-less teams befitting of the pre-season. As bad as the loss to Orlando was (it was putrid),the pattern represents nothing I’ve not seen many, many times over the past few years as a Boston Celtics fan. And we all know that teams as talented as Brooklyn (and especially teams as old as Brooklyn) take nights off. This test-tube Nets team is one formulated for success in the playoffs. But, for the sake of Nets fans from Boston to Albuquerque (and for the sake of many other relevant issues, like playoff seeding and, ya know, general team confidence), can the Nets please, please, PLEASE, not make a habit of putting out performances like last night’s!?
The Nets have a big game against the uber-talented Indiana Pacers on Saturday night at the Barclays Center. I’d bet BOTH of my cats that Nets will bring it in that game. I’m much more concerned about their meeting against the lowly Utah Jazz tomorrow evening.