The second week of the NBA season was not nearly as kind to the New Jersey Nets as opening week.
New Jersey went 0-3, and while some of their overall numbers decreased, there were improvements and bright spots.
Here's a quick recap of the week:
The Nets are now 2-4, sitting at third in the Atlantic Division.
Now, the losses to Orlando and Miami are ones fans can live with. No one expects this team to be able to, night in and night out, compete with the elite teams. It was encouraging to see the Nets hang with them for stretches of the games. Both were close contests at halftime before New Jersey's opponents blew them open in the third quarter. More on that in a little bit.
The loss to Charlotte is the one that hurts.
New Jersey was up 79-69 with just under five minutes left in that one before going ice cold.
After Travis Outlaw hit a three to give the Nets that 10-point lead at the 4:48 mark, New Jersey went 2-of-8 the rest of the way. During that stretch, Charlotte went on a 16-4 run that would give them the victory.
Down by two in the final seconds, Outlaw missed two jumpers, including one that was clearly rushed when Anthony Morrow was wide open for three. Outlaw had plenty of time to get him the ball, but apparently did not realize how much time was on the clock.
The Bobcats were a playoff team a year ago, but they have been struggling so far this year. Having a 10-point lead with less than five minutes to go means you should win the game.
The loss had shades of last year, when the Nets would go stretches without being able to hit a shot to save their lives, and also brought back memories of the many fourth-quarter collapses under Lawrence Frank.
Nevertheless, it's nice to see that the Nets will be playing some close games this season instead of being run out of the gym every night.
And now for their games against Miami and Orlando.
Both these games were close at the half, with the Nets leading the Magic 51-48 and trailing the Heat 55-51.
The third quarter is when it all unraveled in each contest, with New Jersey being outscored a combined 64-33 in that frame.
It was not the only similarity.
The Nets were at a huge disadvantage in terms of free throws, although the disparity during the Orlando game was much more drastic.
The Magic had a 32-9 free-throw attempt advantage, while the Heat came out on top 29-17 in that department.
New Jersey also allowed the two teams to shoot right around 48 percent while shooting below 43 percent.
Brook Lopez's performance was particularly poor in the two games, shooting a combined 8-of-33. He was clearly intimidated by Dwight Howard and did not make strong moves against Miami after getting his shots blocked.
His rebounding numbers have been a disappointment so far, and in the past week's three games he grabbed a total of 14 boards.
The overall rebounding ability has improved around him, which could be leading to the decrease in his numbers, but at times it seems the likes of Terrence Williams and Jordan Farmar go after rebounds with more ferocity than the 7'0" Lopez.
This is not to say that Lopez won't be a good player in this league. By all accounts he is a hard worker who wants to get better. He just needs to be more aggressive and trust his game against the better defending big men of the NBA.
Lopez also seems timid on rotations, not wanting to absorb contact from opponents driving toward the rim. Avery Johnson is surely letting him know this.
The rebounding for the team altogether was somewhat of a disappointment, as they were out-rebounded in each game, including Orlando's 50-31 rebounding advantage.
The team is, however, showing good offensive rebounding ability, averaging 8.7 a game on that end.
Devin Harris had two solid games before throwing up a stinker against Miami. It's unclear if his shoulder injury was bothering him in that game, but he needs to step up against the upper-tier teams for the team to win.
The Nets also got some pleasant surprises out of Kris Humphries and Morrow.
Humprhies has provided good energy off the bench and his work on the glass helped the team to take their brief lead over Orlando, although his minutes have decreased with the return of Troy Murphy.
Murphy is in the process of getting his legs back and finding his shot, so there's not much to say about him other than the team will be better once he gets it together
Morrow did not have a great game against the Magic, but displayed moves off the dribble against Miami that many did not know he had. He was also in double figures against Charlotte and consistent production from him would greatly help the team.
For the second week in a row, Outlaw sandwiched two bad games around one really good game.
He scored 17 against Orlando while going 7-of-8 from the field and 3-of-4 on threes, but was not a factor in the team's other games.
Farmar was hot and cold, but is providing decent production off the bench as Harris' backup.
Williams, like the team as a whole, was better about turnovers.
His errors mainly come when he tries to do too much while dribbling or leaves his feet when attempting a pass. After averaging four turnovers a game in the first week of the season, Williams averaged just 2.3 this past week.
The total turnover numbers also decreased. After committing 17 against Charlotte, the team had just 12 and 14 against Orlando and Miami, respectively. They even had one less turnover per game than their opponents and averaged nearly one more assist per game—signs of improvement.
Derrick Favors was once again impressive for a rookie, coming off the bench and showing both scoring and rebounding ability. His main problem had been his propensity to get in foul trouble, but he was better about that this week.
Overall, the week wasn't as bad as the 0-3 record suggests, being that wins over Miami and Orlando would be huge upsets. Like I said earlier, the loss to Charlotte is the one that stings, but you often need to fail before you can succeed.
If the Nets can shoot better from the field, continue to improve their turnover numbers and be better on defense, they should have a much more successful week ahead of them with two games against Cleveland.
They will also get another shot at the Magic, so improvement will be the main thing to look for in that one, particularly from Lopez.
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