From the desk of: THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH
BROOKLYN NETS: Flatbush Needs Angry Deron Back.
Some things never change.
LeBron James' Monday night romp was no different than the way Michael Jordan used to come to town and light up the Knicks. You knew he was going to get his points. The objective was to shut down Scottie Pippen, and everyone else.
And, as was the case on many nights back when those Bulls visited the Garden, despite the main attraction putting on a show, this Miami Heats team, like those Bulls, have been similarly begging to lose. But, now, as then, teams fail to step up, and suffer from poor late game execution.
In Game Four, the Nets simply failed to deliver a knockout blow. Worse, they increasingly look discombobulated in the final rounds. A failure to close out the Heat has now cost the Brooklyn Nets two games this series. One more loss, and they'll have no one to blame for their elimination, but themselves. They opted for a rope-a-dope in Game Four, and paid a price. Now it is the Heat who are on the verge of delivering a TKO in Five.
The Nets were right there, in the middle of the ring exchanging haymakers. But, we've seen this team suddenly go limp time, and again. Thing is, Brooklyn took more shots from the field, converted more free throws, won the battle of the boards, distributed more assists, actually scored more points in the paint, and got more scoring from their bench.
But, you just can't let the Heat hang around. You have to score late buckets with similar 1st quarter-like accuracy, or risk becoming undone. That said, with roughly 4:00 left in the game, and the score locked at 92-92, that's exactly what happened. The Ghoul of Flatbush reared its ugly head again to spook Brooklyn.
After Joe Johnson's free throws at the 3:55 mark, the Nets went 2 for their last 10 possessions, getting outscored 10-4 in the game's closing minutes. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Joe Johnson combined to shoot 0 for 4 from the field on the Nets final 6 possessions, while the Nets only points in the final 2:30 came on Kevin Garnett's 2 free throws, and Mirza Teletovic's layup with just 0:07 left.
Miami shot 52.9% from the field, while the Nets slumped in the 4th quarter to finish 43.6% for the night. The Nets additionally only managed 20 points in the final quarter - their lowest output of the four sessions.
No one really expected the Nets to repeat their Game Three performance from beyond the arch. Instead, Game Four was all about late, clutch, 2-point buckets. The Nets even secured a series of defensive rebounds in those closing minutes, but failed to convert. There's your game.
The Nets now face elimination for the third time in the 2013-14 playoffs. They faced two straight elimination situations against the Toronto Raptors, and prevailed each time in games Six and Seven. But, these are the defending NBA champions the Nets are now forced to defeat three straight times, and do it without the benefit of home court advantage.
I understand trying to slow down LeBron is a mixed bag of goods. Over defending him will just set up the next guy's shot. But, letting him start his drive from Calle Ocho, then allowing him to remain untouched all the way to the basket, is getting embarrassing. I'd additionally keep a watchful eye on Chris Bosh too. He's been slipping through the cracks and delivering big buckets.
On offense, the Nets need 10 points from Garnett, and can Deron Williams finally outplay Mario Chalmers for a change? Deron's off-season narrative is going to be brutal as it is. For now however, the formula is proven. When Deron plays well, the Nets win. When he drives the lane and misses layups (or runs into three defenders without a plan, and turns the ball over), Game Four happens.
Where's the Deron Williams that got pissed off after getting torched by John Wall (back during the regular season)? The Nets need Angry Deron back.