Desperate times for winless Nets
Brooklyn Falls to 0-5 Following Latest Meltdown in Atlanta
The good news, and there isn’t very much of it these days if you happen to be a Brooklyn Nets fan, is that the franchise is still a very safe distance from its worst start ever.
“I don’t think anybody’s happy to be in this position to start the season,” veteran point guard Jarrett Jack intimated after the Nets fell to an NBA-worst 0-5 with Wednesday night’s 101-87 loss to Atlanta in front of 14,044 fans at Philips Arena.
“We’ve got to come out with a mentality of a desperate team trying to get a win on Friday [against the Lakers at Barclays Center],” he added.
With losses in their first five games, the last two of which have come via fourth-quarter disappearing acts by the offense, the Nets aren’t sweating matching the team’s 0-18 start to the 2009-10 season in New Jersey just yet.
But with Kobe Bryant and the equally desperate Lakers (0-4) headed to Downtown Brooklyn on Friday night, the Nets have to take advantage of what appears to be a very beatable opponent if they don’t want their season-opening stretch of futility to linger into their upcoming four-game road trip, which begins Saturday in Milwaukee before heading to Houston, Sacramento and Golden State.
“First of all, we’ve got to guard the ball,” said frustrated Nets head coach Lionel Hollins after watching his struggling unit get outscored 29-17 over the final 12 minutes against Atlanta after managing just 16 points in the fourth quarter of Monday night’s 103-96 home loss to Jason Kidd and the Bucks.
“We had a lot of times where they just came down and blew by us.”
Bolstered by Brook Lopez’s best performance of the young season — 27 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot — the Nets actually hung with the team that eliminated them in the first round of last year’s playoffs through three quarters, trailing 72-70 entering the fourth.
Atlanta, however, put on an offensive clinic in the second half against Brooklyn’s less-than-tenacious defense, shooting a blistering 59 percent from the floor and hitting half of its 3-pointers, while the Nets continued to clang the rim down the stretch finishing at 43 percent from the floor, including an ugly 1-for-10 shooting effort from Joe Johnson.
The Hawks (5-1) certainly picked up on Brooklyn’s inability to get quality scoring chances without Lopez’s direct involvement, shutting the 7-foot center down in the fourth quarter while pulling away.
Lopez, who went 11-of-16 from the field, managed only one basket — a hook shot in the lane that got Brooklyn within 90-84 with 6:20 remaining — during the entire fourth quarter.
“We made plays out of [the pick-and-roll to Lopez] up until a certain point,” Hollins said. “And then [we were] just throwing balls into hands, getting into traffic and jumping in the air, making passes to wrong people, and it leads to turnovers.”
There were 19 Nets turnovers in all, resulting in 25 free points for the Hawks, who got 21 points from Al Horford and 20 from Dennis Schroder en route to their fifth consecutive victory, and sixth in a row against the Nets during regular-season action.
“They play the pick-and-roll very aggressively, and their hands are up and active,” Lopez said of the Atlanta’s fourth-quarter defense. “It’s tough to make plays out of that.”
Thaddeus Young had 14 points and 10 boards and Bojan Bodganovic added 12 points off the bench for Brooklyn, which is ranked next-to-last in the NBA with a putrid 24.4 percent shooting percentage from beyond the arc this season.
Nothing But Net: Jack, who missed the season opener with a sore left foot, managed just six points on 3-of-10 shooting Wednesday night as he continues to play with lingering effects from the injury. … The Nets’ 0-18 start in ’09-10 is the worst by any franchise in NBA history. Lopez was a second-year player on that squad, which eventually finished with a franchise-worst 12-70 record.
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