Brooklyn Nets: Divergent views from late collapses emerge

Brooklyn Nets Allen Crabbe (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets Allen Crabbe (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

The Brooklyn Nets have blown more double-digit leads — 8 — this season than any team in the NBA and there are 2 schools of thought emerging.

After the Brooklyn Nets lost a game Wednesday night in which they led by 20 points in the fourth quarter, the frustration from those sorts of lost opportunities boiled over — a lot with the fan base and some within the Nets locker room.

The 114-112 loss to the Oklahoma City, marked by critical mistakes in the final seconds by Brooklyn, was just the latest in a string of losses at home that have followed a similar script.

In four of their most recent five losses at Barclays Center, the Nets led the Philadelphia 76ers by 20 points and had double-digit advantages over both the Utah Jazz and Memphis Grizzlies and had a 23-point lead over Oklahoma City. They found ways to lose all four.

The eight blown double-digit leads are the most in the NBA and the Nets (8-18) have as many wins as lost opportunities.

After Wednesday’s loss, Coach Kenny Atkinson said it was another learning experience. per Brian Lewis of the New York Post:

"“We talked about it. Learning experience, something he has to learn from. All our team’s got to learn from it.”"

The “he” to whom Atkinson referred was point guard D’Angelo Russell, who started the chain of late mistakes with 10.8 second remaining, firing up a contested 3-pointer with seven seconds left on the shot clock and Brooklyn holding a one-point lead.

Jared Dudley, the Nets’ elder statesman at age 33, had a different view, per the Post.

"“We;re to a point now, it’s happening to often, seven, eight games and the way we’re losing, it’s like Groundhog Day.“We’re losing in very similar ways, not playing smart basketball, not doing little things … rebounding, stupid turnovers, not knowing shot selection, time on the clock, fouling bad shots, putting them on the free throw line.“We’re playing bad basketball in the last five to seven minutes and it just seems like we’re out there and we’re not making enough adjustments.”"

Atkinson agreed there is something to what Dudley said, but added:

"“Look, we have young players. We have a 22-year-old point guard, we have a 20-year-old center [Jarrett Allen] and you’re playing experienced teams. I just think it takes time to gain that experience.“I don’t think it’s a question of IQ. I think it’s more a question of just having more experience.”"

It is true the Nets, as a group, have almost no experience with winning and only eight of the 17 players — including two-way contracts — on the roster have played in the postseason.

Brooklyn has a total of 158 playoff appearances between those eight players, with DeMarre Carroll‘s 57 topping the list. Ed Davis has 30, Dudley 29, Allen Crabbe 17, Kenneth Faried 12, Shabazz Napier and Joe Harris six apiece and Spencer Dinwiddie has one game under his belt.

Only Harris has appeared in an NBA Finals game, making two very brief appearances for a total of three minutes with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2015.

Contrast that with the experience of Wednesday’s opponent, the Thunder, and you find that Russell Westbrook alone has played in 93 postseason games, including a Finals appearance in 2012.

Paul George, who exploded for 25 points in the fourth quarter, including the game-winning 3-pointer, has played in 71 playoff games. That’s 164 games — more than Brooklyn’s team total — in just two players.

Beyond that for the Thunder, Steven Adams and Patrick Patterson each have played in 47 postseason games.

So there is probably some validity to the inexperience argument.

Still, however, the Nets have shown a startling lack of situational awareness at times — defensive decisions by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson in the Memphis and Oklahoma City losses stand out — and situations and how to react to them most definitely can be taught.

With eight losses after leading by double-digits, though, it becomes an entity of its own. You could see some of the players pressing in the closing minutes as the Thunder made their charge, waiting for the dropping of the proverbial other shoe.

Dudley said the players definitely exhibited that sort of feeling.

"“That’s just human nature. What’s the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over and not changing, not adjusting? …… I don’t think at one point in time {the Thunder] were not confident in winning the game. I think sometimes we get a little anxious and lose because we haven’t had success.“When you have enough IQ on the team, you try to get flare picks, try to move the ball at different times, sometimes you get a mismatch, you go by, you got to make the right read.“We played the right way the first three and a half, four quarters, then the last six, seven minutes it goes to pick-and-roll, iso and I don’t get it. … I don’t see any players here good enough to try to do that on a consistent basis.”"

It certainly does not get easier for the Nets.

Brooklyn opens a back-to-back Friday night when they host the Toronto Raptors, who enter with an NBA-best 21-5 record, and follow that with a visit across the bridge to Manhattan to play the New York Knicks.

The Nets have lost 33 straight games on the road in the second game of back-to-backs, dating back to Dec. 21, 2015.

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That’s just another of those “young team” things Brooklyn has to learn to push through.