2. Shot selection to end 1st half was shaky
The Brooklyn Nets built a big lead over the Houston Rockets by exploiting switches that left quick ballhandlers on plodding frontcourt defenders. Caris LeVert, in particular, took advantage of opportunities to drive against bigger, slower players such as P.J. Tucker and Clint Capela.
LeVert also sliced up bigger, stationary defenders — which would be the kindest way to describe Carmelo Anthony’s first-half defensive … ahem … efforts.
With Brooklyn up 14 with a little more than 2½ minutes left in the first half, LeVert got some room late in the clock and penetrated, but his floating banker was too strong. LeVert then fouled Anthony and the Rockets cut the deficit to 12 on the free throws.
From there, the Nets settled. Jarrett Allen missed badly on a corner 3. The Rockets got a quick run out off a long rebound and Eric Gordon canned a 3 to cut the Brooklyn lead back to single digits at nine.
In the next possession, the Nets got a late-clock 3 from D’Angelo Russell that was off line and converted it into a pull-up 3 at the other end by Chris Paul. that got the margin down to six points.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson came up with a steal and had a two-on-one break opportunity with LeVert, with only Paul back. Jefferson — a forward — tried an alley-oop to LeVert.
The pass was long, LeVert missed the attempt, Paul got the board and the Rockets wound up with a Capela dunk and a five-point game.
Russell drained a 3 with 5.2 seconds left, but no one thought to step in front of a dribbling Paul as time wound down and he got an open, if long, look … and buried it to cut it back to five at the half.
If the Nets had just stayed in attack mode, setting screens and making Houston pay for switching slow defenders onto guards, Brooklyn had an opportunity to finish the Rockets, who were chirping at referees, at each other and generally looking miserable out there.
Instead, the Nets got cute, eased up off the layup line being allowed by Houston’s passive defense and let the Rockets gain confidence and momentum.
The biggest hurdle for a young team isn’t learning how to complete — the Nets have been competitive for a season-plus now. No, the last step to respectability comes from knowing how to finish off an opponent that’s ready to be put to sleep.
Brooklyn still has a ways to go on that front.