There's something different about this year's version of the New Jersey Nets.
They don't quit.
Down 21 points in the third quarter to a team like the Dallas Mavericks a season ago—well, down 21 points to anyone really—the Nets would have folded up the tent and started getting ready for the next game.
Thursday night, though, they continued to fight, even getting to within eight points of the lead in the fourth.
Sure, they still lost 102-89, but they kept at it all game and made Dallas work for the victory. We weren't able to say that very often in 2009.
As will be the case in the majority of New Jersey's games this year, the Mavericks—winners of 11 straight and owners of the NBA's second-best record—just have superior talent.
It's difficult for any team to compete with a squad that has as many players capable of filling up a stat-sheet as Dallas, let alone one that is currently rebuilding.
The Nets were unable to come up with a win, but it's still nice to see them playing their hardest every night.
Not helping things, Devin Harris was injured early in the game after coming down hard on his left shoulder while breaking up an alley-oop pass. He reportedly suffered a sprain in the shoulder and it is unknown how long he will be out.
As far as statistics go, New Jersey was led by Brook Lopez with 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting. He's been much more aggressive as of late, not settling for long jumpers, evidenced by his 12 free throw attempts in Dallas.
Kris Humphries recorded a double-double, scoring 16 points and grabbing 13 rebounds, and Anthony Morrow added in 21 points.
Damion James hit 2-of-3 shots to score four points in the first start of his career. He tried a little too hard at times, leading to three turnovers, but that can be expected from a rookie returning to his home state in his first start.
In his return from the D-League, Terrence Williams scored six points on 3-for-8 shooting, dishing out four assists and pulling down two boards. He was good about not settling for jump shots, instead driving the ball and looking to set up his teammates or take a shot when the opening was there.
It's exactly what Avery Johnson wants him to do.
For the Mavs, Caron Butler, Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and Jason Terry combined for 69 points—all of them scoring at least 15.
Nowitzki also had 10 rebounds and ex-Net Jason Kidd had eight assists, although that paled in comparison to Jose Barea's 13 dimes.
As said before, losing is never fun, but if there's such a thing as a good loss, the Nets have had a bunch of them recently.
They don't back down from their opponents, and teams can no longer expect an easy win when New Jersey is on the schedule.
Eventually, even if it takes until next season, the Nets will get better players on the roster and will learn how to win these games.
They now have two days off before hosting the Lakers on Sunday afternoon.
Johnson is changing up the routine in regards to early games of that nature; hoping to avoid the letdowns that have come in the team's previous matinee games.
Whether that benefits them at all remains to be seen.