The Nets got off to a slow start Wednesday night, and though they put forth a good effort, were not able to come back in a 104-95 loss to their cross-river rivals, the New York Knicks. The Knicks, led by Carmelo Anthony, couldn’t miss in the first quarter where they outscored the Nets 38-22, and it could have been worse than that. They had already scored 24 points in the first 5+ minutes of the game. Carmelo had 21 in the first quarter, and that was too much for the Nets to come back from.
Despite the very slow start, the Nets had an excellent third quarter and that put them in a position where they could have gotten a win. Led by Sundiata Gaines, of all people, the Nets cut the New York lead to 5 before it expanded back out to 15 in the fourth quarter. The Nets needed just a little bit more talent tonight, which they would have had if Deron Williams had been playing. If you want to read more about some of the individual plays and moments from the game, check out our live game notes.
After the Miami game on Monday when Heat fans invaded the Prudential Center, I knew that it was going to be even worse tonight when Knicks fans entered. The game was sold out, and I can guarantee you that more than half the fans there were Knicks fans. There were chants of “Melo” and “MVP” in the fourth quarter when Anthony was at the foul line (even though he has a 0% chance of winning the award for a team just a few games over .500). Also, the Nets were somehow booed at home when they entered the court and during introductions. I knew the Knick fans would be bad tonight, but not even I expected the home team to be booed. Luckily, this will be the last time visiting teams’ fans will invade The Rock, as the Nets only have one home game remaining ever in New Jersey: Philadelphia on Monday. Philadelphia does not really care about the Sixers and don’t expect a large contingent of visiting fans for that game. Hopefully when the Nets are in Brooklyn next year, we will invade Madison Square Garden and boo the Knicks. The chances of that happening are extremely unlikely, but we can always dream (I wore my Deron Williams jersey to a Knicks-Bucks game earlier this year and cheered very loudly for the Bucks. People gave me weird looks like, “Wow. I’ve never seen anybody where a Nets jersey before”).
The Nets had a moral victory on Monday when they nearly beat Miami, but I don’t think this was a moral victory today. I really wanted to beat the Knicks and shut up all their fans that made the trip across the river. It’s unfortunate that the Nets lost, but it is what it is. The good news is that it helps the Nets a bit in the draft lottery, and, more importantly, gives the Knicks a better shot at playing Miami instead of Chicago in the first round. Miami is going to be the 2-seed and Chicago is going to be the 1. I think the Knicks have just about no chance of even competing with Miami, while I would give them a realistic chance at beating the Bulls. Even though I am not happy about it, New York is going to make the playoffs. Let’s just hope they get swept in the first round again this year.
Player stats, grades, and notes:
Sundiata Gaines: 18 points, 7-13 FG, 4-5 3 pt FG, 6 reb, 6 ast, 1 stl, 2 to, 29 min. Grade: A
Surprisingly, Sundiata didn’t hurt the Nets today in D-Will’s absence. In fact, he was probably the MVP of the game for them. He tied a career high with 18 points, was an active rebounder, passed pretty well, and was 4-5 from 3, where he shoots 29% for his career. He occasionally did some Sundiata dribbling where he holds the ball for way too long, but for the most part, he made good passes, didn’t turn the ball over, and did a nice job at leading the offense. He also did a solid job on Mike Bibby, who shot 3-10, but then again I could probably hold Mike Bibby to 3-10 shooting. This was arguably Sundiata’s best game of the season, and his first good game in a long, long time.
Marshon Brooks: 5 points, 2-6 FG, 0 reb, 1 ast, 1 to, 21 min. Grade: D
The slumping Marshon returned tonight after having a career night on Monday. Both of his field goals came early on in the first quarter, and Coach Avery then pulled him for not playing good defense. He is obviously still learning a lot, and it showed tonight. Coach Avery only played him for 21 minutes, but hopefully he will get more chances to play in the last 3 games of the season.
Kris Humphries: 8 points, 2-11 FG, 15 reb, 7 off reb, 4 ast, 4 to, 1 stl, 2 blk, 38 min. Grade: B-
The Hump did everything you want from him defensively and rebounding-wise, but his offense was very poor tonight. He was not making his Hump jumpers, and wasn’t even able to finish around the rim. However, he did an excellent job on the glass, especially on the offensive side, and he had 4 assists too. His best play of the game was a huge block on Carmelo Anthony. If only Nets fans were at the game, it would have been an exciting moment.
Gerald Wallace: 21 points, 7-14 FG, 6-8 FT, 5 reb, 1 ast, 3 to, 31 min. Grade: B+
We did not know whether or not Crash was going to play tonight, but, seeing the way he played, I’m surprised he was even injured at all. He was hustling more than any other Net tonight and even had a dunk, which he rarely does even when he is completely healthy. Speaking of that dunk, that was an embarrassing play by the Nets. They had a nice offensive sequence leading to the dunk, but then did not get back on defense at all. Wallace had to go chase down Carmelo Anthony and foul him to prevent the fastbreak layup. Unfortunately, the layup went in anyway. If all the Nets hustled as much as Wallace, they would probably be a playoff team. I expect Wallace to play in all the remaining games this season, because he is clearly not injured.
Deshawn Stevenson: 9 points, 3-5 FG, 3-5 3 pt FG, 5 reb, 2 ast, 1 blk, 1 to, 33 min. Grade: B+
This is the Deshawn I was hoping to get at the beginning of the year. He looked like the Deshawn that won a championship last year for Dallas. He made more than half his 3′s, and actually played very good defense for the most part. The Nets held Carmelo Anthony to 12 points in the last 3 quarters of the game, led by Deshawn. He got injured in the beginning of the fourth quarter and went to the locker room, but soon came back and kept playing. If only the Nets had this Deshawn and not the terrible brick-shooting Deshawn that we have gotten used to seeing all season long.
Anthony Morrow: 10 points, 3-10 FG, 2-8 3 pt FG, 3 reb, 0 ast, 1 to, 31 min. Grade: C-
C’mon Morrow. He shot mostly 3′s today, which is good, but what is bad is that he missed 75% of them. I was hoping Morrow would come out hot against a terrible defense that leaves 3-point shooters open, but he didn’t take advantage of it. If Morrow had made his open 3′s, one can argue that the Nets would have won this game.
Armon Johnson: 6 points, 3-4 FG, 1 reb, 0 ast, 0 to, 12 min. Grade: B+
If not for Sundiata’s stellar performance tonight, I would be wondering why the Nets weren’t starting Armon Johnson in Deron’s absence. AJ played very well tonight in limited minutes. He was able to drive to the rim for layups and floaters. He didn’t do much else, but Avery didn’t really give him enough time to do much else. I hope Avery takes advantage of AJ’s 10-day contract in the last 3 games.
As we look ahead, the Nets will have a few days off now until Saturday when they visit the Milwaukee Bucks. That game will be an absolute must-win for Milwaukee if they want any chance at making the playoffs. Right now, it is still very unlikely that they will be in. After that, the last game ever in New Jersey will be on Monday when the Nets host the 76ers, and their last game ever as the New Jersey Nets will be next week in Toronto. After that, we will officially be the Brooklyn Nets and we will be coming for the Knicks. Knicks fans should be afraid.