Nets get ‘clipped’ in Los Angeles
Brooklyn Denied Third Straight Win on Annual Circus Trip
The post-Joe Johnson era began with two straight wins for the Brooklyn Nets.
But with a third consecutive victory in sight Monday night in Los Angeles, the Nets reverted to the form that has made them one of the worst teams in the NBA this season.
Jamal Crawford scored 26 points off the bench, including a go-ahead jumper at the third quarter buzzer, as the Clippers stormed past Brooklyn, 105-95, in front of 19,060 fans at Staples Center.
“They played well down the stretch, which we didn’t,” Nets interim coach Tony Brown mused after watching his club manage just 16 points over the final 12 minutes while the Clippers used a 14-1 run spanning the third and fourth periods to pull ahead to stay.
“They have a veteran ball club,” Brown added. “They have been playing well together since losing some of their key guys. There was not enough defensively we could take away with the scorers they have.”
Brooklyn (17-43), which waived Johnson last week, only to see him quickly sign with the playoff-bound Miami Heat, had put together back-to-back wins over Phoenix and Utah to improve to 2-1 on its franchise-record nine-game circus trip.
The Nets were in position to make it three in a row, but Crawford’s pull-up shot just prior to the buzzer ending the third period put the Clippers up, 81-79.
Crawford’s 3-pointer with just over 10 minutes left to play made it 85-80 and the Nets never seriously challenged thereafter, falling to 5-5 in their last 10 games, which is actually their best stretch of this disastrous fourth campaign in our fair borough following three straight playoff appearances.
“Crawford got hot,” Brook Lopez lamented after pouring in a team-high 25 points to go with 10 rebounds and two blocked shots. “As a complete unit I thought we could have done a better job on the pick and roll.”
Bojan Bogdanovich, who has inherited Johnson’s role as a scoring forward/facilitator, had 19 points and six assists, and Thaddeus Young grabbed a team-best 11 boards for Brooklyn, which was slated to take on retiring legend Kobe Bryant and the Lakers at Staples Center on Tuesday night.
Chris Paul had 23 points, 12 assists and six rebounds for the Clippers, who outrebounded the Nets, 47-44, and shot 49 percent from the floor, including Crawford’s 10-of-17 effort.
“They are a great ball club, but you can’t go out there and play and not get into them,” Brown insisted. “Get into them, get into Chris Paul, get into Jamal Crawford, make them work a little harder. That’s the message we are trying to preach.”
Practicing what Brown preaches is something the Nets are genuinely trying to adhere to.
However, the team’s lack of consistent offensive sets, coupled with the knowledge that there will be no playoffs at the end of the season, oftentimes leaves them powerless down the stretch against better built, hungrier teams.
“They trust one another and know exactly where they’re going to be on the floor at all times offensively and defensively, and that’s something we want to work toward,” Lopez said. “It’s our job to continue building that trust and belief.”
Nothing But Net: Wayne Ellington had 13 points in Monday’s loss before leaving the game with a concussion after a collision with mammoth Clippers center DeAndre Jordan midway through the third quarter. Ellington’s status for Tuesday’s game against the Lakers was questionable at best, as was Bryant’s. The five-time NBA champion is dealing with a nagging shoulder injury, and may not play in what was supposed to be his last-ever meeting with the Nets … New Nets GM Sean Marks continues to tweak the roster, signing the NBA Developmental League’s top scorer, Sean Kilpatrick, to a 10-day contract on Sunday. Kilpatrick, who was averaging 26 points per game for the Delaware 87ers, actually logged a few seconds of playing time in Monday’s loss, but did not take a shot.
In local college hoops news, both the men’s LIU-Brooklyn Blackbirds and St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers are poised to make a run at the Division I NCAA Tournament this week.
On Wednesday evening, the Blackbirds will be in Fairfield, Connecticut, to take on Sacred Heart in the opening round of the Northeast Conference Tournament, while SFC will host Mount St. Mary’s on Remsen Street Wednesday.
One local squad who has already punched its ticket to the Dance, albeit the Division III version, is Brooklyn College’s men’s team.
The Bulldogs beat Baruch, 76-67, on Saturday to grab their first CUNYAC title since the 2009-10 campaign. They will meet NYU in the opening round of the tourney on Friday in Newport News, Virginia.
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