Late Game Blunder Nearly Sinks Brooklyn, Again


Wednesday night, the Brooklyn Nets pulled off an impressive upset at home against the San Antonio Spurs. Defensively, the Nets played great, holding the Spurs to an uncharacteristically low field goal percentage. Their efforts in the third quarter allowed them to build a moderate lead that extended into the final quarter as well. In the closing minutes, the Spurs finally turned back into, well, the Spurs. Raining threes, playing stingy defense for a 4-minute span and before you knew it, the game was tied after what seemed like a pain-free win.

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As Nets fans have grown accustom to the past few weeks, Brooklyn was not able to put away a team in the fourth quarter with a double-digit lead. Certainly something to work on in the future. Anyways, the game would end up going to overtime after Danny Green hit a clutch three with two seconds remaining. After the game tying triple, the Nets another opportunity to put the game away in their final possession in overtime and they turned the ball over.

Fifteen seconds remaining, all the Nets had to do is get the ball in successfully and avoid a turnover until the Spurs had to ultimately foul. It didn’t happen. First, on the inbound pass, Deron Williams tried to catch the ball behind mid-court to create space with his defender. The only problem was that he caught it on the run, a few feet before the half court line. Frantically, Deron jumped to avoid the violation and threw it to a nearby Bojan Bogdanovic, who panicked (rookie mistake) and dribbled into the corner, drawing an immediate double team. In an attempt to pass out of the double team, the ball was tipped straight into air and as Bogdanovic went to save the ball, it ricocheted off his leg. Spurs ball.

This could’ve cost Brooklyn the game and probably should have. When you’re playing the defending champs, you simply can’t let something like this happen. Luckily, the Nets were able to correct themselves in overtime and got the win but not without a great deal of stress.

It was a familiar sight for any Nets fan. Late game situation on an out of bounds play and the Nets are unable to execute properly. I recall two occurrences against the Raptors last year alone. Thankfully, the one that didn’t sink the Nets was in game seven of the playoffs but the fact that the team is often prone to these blunders during these late game scenarios is a cause for concern.

Of course, the blame for the blown lead cannot be pinned solely on this one play. The Nets have this unfortunate tendency of being extremely complacent when they feel they have the game “in-hand”. Offensive intensity slows up and the shot selection becomes forced as the overabundance of isolation basketball starts to emerge. Five full minutes without a basket is inexcusable but in crunch time, it can be lethal.

Eventually, under Lionel Hollins, the Nets will learn to close out games. It is the true sign of a great team. Just think of teams in previous playoffs that were unable to put away their opponents when they had the chance. The 2012-13 San Antonio Spurs comes to mind. Late game situations are a necessity to work on in practice, on both ends of the floor.

There were rumblings on social media last night about Joe Johnson’s effectiveness in his final shot in regulation. His leaning 15-footer was off the mark and didn’t seal the victory right then and there, but the shot was Johnson’s cleanest look either. It’s understandable that fans expect Joe Johnson to be the hero whenever he takes a big shot but be realistic. Johnson’s successful shooting in close games in the closing seconds of games in unmatched to anyone in the league. To think he could remain this automatic for his entire Brooklyn tenure is a lofty goal. Watching Johnson play a majority of his career, all it takes is one clutch shot to give him the confidence and the title of “Joe Jesus” once again.

Okay, enough negativity for one post. Fact of the matter is that the Nets played well once again and it appears that they are starting to build more chemistry on the fly in addition to buying into Coach Hollins’ principles.

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Go Nets.

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