(Joe Johnson of the Nets being defended by the Bulls’ Jimmy Butler – @BrooklynNets)
The Nets opened the 2015-16 season with a loss that was a sign of things to come, as the Chicago Bulls did whatever they wanted on their way to a 115-100 win on Wednesday night at Barclays Center.
It was an inconsistent performance from the Nets, a team that has a far different look than what they ended last season with.
Deron Williams, Alan Anderson,and Mirza Teletovic are gone, and new faces like Shane Larkin, Wayne Ellington, Andrea Bargnani, Thomas Robinson, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson are in.
The Nets are definitely a younger group, but this is not the youth like the Lakers and Celtics have. There aren’t any real blue-chip prospects here, but a collection of guys that they hope Head Coach Lionel Hollins can mold into a cohesive unit
Hollins said of the loss on Wednesday night, “We finally got one out of the way. It wasn’t pretty. We showed some good things, just not enough consistency with those good things. We started off the first quarter, we’re down 30-19, but we wound up shooting 55 percent in the first half and having 16 assists. Second half, we shot 30 percent and we had three assists. That was not very good. I thought once they got out on us in the first and third quarter, the second quarter we handled it better, the second half, we tried to do it ourselves too much. When I look at 28 free throw attempts and 93 field goal attempts, we only had 39 makes, but we had 93 field goal attempts, so that says to me that we had a lot of shots that we didn’t make, in terms of makeable shots. When the game started, we had a number of wide open shots that we missed with nobody around us. Hopefully, that is something that can trend differently, more positively. We have to defend better. We didn’t handle schemes very well and we gave up some easy stuff that they didn’t have to earn.”
This is the start of what could be a dreadful start to the season for the Nets. They travel to San Antonio and Memphis over the weekend before returning home on November 2 to face Jason Kidd and the Milwaukee Bucks.
The rest of November will go as follows: at Atlanta, vs. Lakers, at Milwaukee, Houston, at Sacramento, and Golden State, vs. Atlanta, at Charlotte, home-and-home with Boston, at Oklahoma City, at Cleveland, vs. Detroit.
Out of those 17 games, how many of theme are winnable? How many is it realistic to think that they actually can win?
The Nets began the 2009-10 season with 18 straight losses to start the season. It is not unreasonable to think that the Nets can test this mark, as the team is in a similar rebuilding mode.
On Wednesday night, there were part of this game in which the Nets looked like they want to look, a young, fast and dynamic team. There were too many other parts where they had issues running their offense and generally looked inept.
The Bulls opened up the game with a 24-10 run, and then led 30-19 at the end of the first. The Nets returned the favor in the second quarter, outscoring Chicago 36-28 to pull within 58-55 at the half.
The third quarter belonged to the Bulls, who opened up an 18-point lead, at 81-63, and led 86-71 heading into the fourth.
The Nets made a run in the final quarter, cutting Chicago’s lead to 100-94 with 3:41 left. The Bulls pulled away at the end, going on a 15-6 run to close it out.
Joe Johnson had a tough night, as he shot just 4-for-15 from the field, as his shot selection was poor, and missed his only two three-point attempts, for 10 points. The most jarring stat on Johnson is the -29 he logged meaning that Chicago scored 29 more points than the Nets when he was on the floor.
Johnson said of the game, “I thought our second unit came in with a lot of energy, especially defensively – getting outs, getting easy baskets. They got us back in the game, and it’s almost the starters, third quarter, we come out, we ain’t get it done, put ourselves back in a hole.”
Johnson said of how the Nets played offensively, “I thought we got some good looks. We just missed a lot of easy shots, but we just got to continue to work. It don’t get any easier. Obviously, we would have loved to have won this home opener, but now we got to go out on the road and try to get one in San Antonio.”
Brook Lopezs had his usual 26 points (10-for-17 shooting), seven rebounds, and two assists, but like Johnson his +/- was a dreadful -20.
Lopez said of the game, “The second unit was great for us. They came in twice and saved the game for us with their energy and effort. I’m very disappointed in myself in the first and third quarter. I don’t feel like I played well, and it hurt us.”
Lopez said of how the offense performed, “I thought it was good for the most part. I think in the first quarter we came in and we were a little tentative. Definitely guys missed a few shots they would normally make, just wide-open looks, and we have no problem with that. I think we have to be a little bit better defensively and a lot better offensively, especially in the first and third quarters. It made it tough to work our way back in the fourth when we needed to get shots.”
On what he thinks the Nets issues were on defense, Lopez said, “I think the way we started off both halves, we didn’t give ourselves a lot of room for error. I didn’t play well in the pick and roll defensively, and I think they took advantage of that.”
Thaddeus Young had 12 points on 6-for-12 shooting, and 5 rebounds, said of the loss, “We want to use this one as a building block.”
Young said of how much it hurts to come out and play like that, “Yes, definitely. You definitely don’t want to come out the way we did. We came out very cold, turned the ball over, didn’t make shots, and it just kind of went on throughout the game. We kept pushing, we made a few runs to get back into the game, but it wasn’t enough.”
Young said of making sure that the low energy doesn’t carry into the next game, “Just by taking our practices and piggybacking off of that and just continue to try to get better as a team. I think that’s the biggest thing. We got away from moving the ball as a team, and they kind of made a run. If we stick to what Coach (Hollins) is putting out there for us in the package, I think we’ll be fine.”