Lionel blames schedule for Nets’ peril

Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins did something no head coach should ever do after the Nets were embarrassed by the Chicago Bulls on Monday night, 117-86, as he blamed the Nets’ schedule for the reason they are 37-44 and in ninth place in the Eastern Conference.

Hollins was asked about the game, and he said, “Stats say it all. They shot better from the three (40%) than we did from two (36.8%), they outscored us 56-36 (in the second half). We had 12 assists, five in the first half, and I told the coaches that if we go out there and can’t get more than five assists in the second half and only have 10 (in the entire game), we can’t win. We got two more for 12 assists. We have to give up the ball, we have to make shots, we have to make layups, we have to defend with second and third efforts. It was a disappointing loss, but the way that I look at it is that we have one more game left and we have to win it. As I said earlier, the other teams have to win too. Indiana has to win. We win Wednesday and they don’t win both games, we’re still in. That’s the way I’m looking at it.”

Lionel continued, taking on their schedule, “We were dealt a tough schedule. We had Toronto, Atlanta, Portland, Washington, and then Atlanta, Portland, Milwaukee, Chicago. We had a tough schedule, but we’ve hung in there and we’re still there. It’s not over. I know we’re going to be written off tomorrow in the paper but that’s your job (the media). Do what you want to do, but we’ll be here on Wednesday and try to close out the season with a victory and see what happens.”

For Hollins to complain about the schedule is a bit disingenuous considering a lot of the teams he mentioned rested players because they have the luxury of being secure in a playoff spot. The Nets, on the other hand, threw away so many games this season at Barclays Center, a big reason they have a miserable 37-44 record, do not have that right. Hollins also makes them out to be plucky guys that deserve credit for being in there, just forget the fact that this team has the highest payroll in the NBA at $82.4 million, according to Basketball Reference.

Going through the games he mentioned, let’s start with Toronto, who rested Kyle Lowry when they played the Nets on April 3rd in Brooklyn, and the Nets barely pulled out a 114-109 win. They were blown out the next night in Atlanta, 131-99.

Two nights later, the Nets returned to Brooklyn for a make-up game with Portland, and because they flew cross-country just for this one, they left back LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicholas Batum, and Wes Matthews. The game was still in doubt in the fourth, with the Nets up just 6 points, and they held on for a 106-96 win.

On Wednesday, April 8th, the Atlanta Hawks came to Brooklyn and Pero Antic and Thabo Sefolosha were arrested early that morning for their role in the fight at 1Oak in Manhattan that left Pacer Chris Copeland stabbed. The Hawks also did not play Paul Millsap in that one. Atlanta won it late on an Al Horford dunk on a pick-and-roll that faked out Brook Lopez. Atlanta won 114-111. Two nights later, the Nets got a tremendous break, as John Wall did not play for the Wizards, and hey cruised to a 117-80 victory. Jason Kidd and the Milwaukee Bucks played their full lineup Sunday when they blew out the Nets 96-73 and clinched the sixth seed. Chicago rested Joakim Noah in this one on Monday night and the Bulls still won by 27 points.

In going through that, the schedule was actually a benefit because if those teams played those games out with their full lineups, the Nets likely would be winless in April.

Hollins said of what teams are doing defensively versus the Nets, “They both (Milwaukee and Chicago) did a good job of taking away Brook (Lopez) in the paint. I think Brook had 12 points at halftime, and he didn’t score in the second half. When they take away a major part of our offense in the way that they have in the past couple of games, and then when we try to go in the post to Joe (Johnson), they double team pretty good and they were ready for what we were trying to do offensively. Joe scored some but not as effective as we’d like to have had him because of what they were doing. This is a good team we played against tonight, a good defensive team. The ball has to move, and we have to make shots and we didn’t do either.”

On getting blown out twice in a row, Hollins said, “It doesn’t really matter how you lose. It could have been a last-second shot – it still would have been a loss. It’s disappointing to lose like that, but we played two really good defensive teams, two athletic teams, two long teams. When you go in the paint and you shoot 20-for-50 in the paint, that means they have something to do with that as well. It is what it is in terms of we battled, we tried to hang in there, but they were much better than us tonight. We couldn’t control them, they made a lot of threes and they got us a lot of what they wanted.”

Hollins said of the lack of ball movement, “Obviously, it wasn’t something that they were doing that makes us go one-on-one. I think what happens is guys are competitive and they’re trying to win the game. They’re trying to bring us back in the game, they get the ball and they try to do too much – simple as that.”

On defensive breakdowns, Hollins said, “When you have a jet like (Derrick) Rose and (Aaron) Brooks getting in the paint and creating, you have to go help and when you help, they throw it back out. Those guys made shots. (Nikola) Mirotic was unbelievable in the third and beginning of the fourth quarter.”

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