It was a painful week for the New Jersey Nets. They didn't win a game and are now riding a five-game losing streak.
It is also a bit troubling that they are starting to get blown out with some regularity. Earlier in the season they may have been losing games, but they were generally competitive in them.
They appeared to be a team with some ability that just had to learn how to win.
Their main problem last year was their propensity to go on long scoring droughts, and it seems that tendency is back. If they were able to avoid being severely outscored for what seems like a quarter or so every game, they would have a much better chance to win.
The Nets are 9-25 on the season, in last place of the Atlantic Division and are 13th overall in the Eastern Conference. Hey, at least they are not the worst team.
As briefly mentioned earlier, New Jersey is being done in by 12-minute long stretches of offensive ineptitude, frequent turnovers, poor defense or all three.
This sometimes happens for more than one quarter in a game, but there is an argument to be made that that is a carryover effect. If they could prevent that first bad quarter from happening, the second would be less likely to occur.
I'll go game-by-game here to illustrate my point.
Against Orlando, the Nets actually had a 25-24 lead after the first. They followed that up with a bad second period in which they scored only 19 points and gave up 27. In the third quarter they gave up 30 points while scoring 25.
Perhaps this was partly due to them needing to expend extra energy on offense after being outplayed in the second. We'll never know.
Next up, the Nets traveled to Oklahoma City.
After one quarter, the score was knotted up at 24 and it looked as though a good game could be in the works. Then the second quarter happened and New Jersey committed 12 turnovers (12!), allowing the Thunder to score 33 points in that period.
Because they gave the ball away so much, the Nets were only able to rack up 22 points of their own and the game was never again close.
On New Year's Eve, the Nets visited Chicago. They were down just two points going into halftime, but took some awful shots in the third quarter and scored all of 19 points. The ineptitude continued in the fourth, where they totaled 18.
Finally, on New Year's Day, the Nets took their talents to Minnesota, where they provided the most egregious example of this problem.
New Jersey worked out a 55-54 lead at halftime. Fans were hopeful they would end their losing streak.
In what was easily their worst quarter of the season, the Nets put on an abysmal performance in scoring a whopping nine points. They allowed 23, which is not bad, but the damage had already been done.
The team takes itself out of games with these quarter-long stretches of bad basketball. The contests are reasonably close when you take those periods out.
Because they sometimes allow the poor play to linger into another frame, it's tough to say that they are a quarter away from being a good team.
What I will say is that they are about 15 to 18 minutes from being consistently competitive.
Turnovers have been a problem all year, so I don't want to waste too much time on that aspect of the game. They've shown the ability to avoid those costly mistakes, but also have games like OKC and Minnesota where they commit 20 or more turnovers.
Three-point shooting is killing this team.
With Anthony Morrow out, there is no reliable threat. Sasha Vujacic is capable, but he is not on that level.
At 33 percent on the season, New Jersey is one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the league.
To make matters worse, they are also quite mediocre at defending the three, allowing opponents to shoot 36 percent from behind the arc.
In their games against Chicago, the Nets and Bulls hit the same amount of total field-goals. The difference was that the Bulls hit three more three-pointers, giving them a nine-point win.
Injuries are also taking their toll as New Jersey lacks any kind of depth. The starters are decent enough, but once the reserves come in the game is all but over.
I normally like to take a look at individual performances, but I'm going to forgo that some this week, as it's really more of the same.
Brook Lopez can score, but is not rebounding. He still needs to be more aggressive on offense.
Devin Harris is doing his best to be the leader, but his shot disappears at times. He's clearly trying to get his teammates involved. Given the lack of talent around him though, he may be losing faith in them.
Vujacic deserves to be starting ahead of Stephen Graham. Graham can be a solid bench player, but he is not a starter. "The Machine" has played well enough to earn the starting gig.
The rest of the guys continue to be inconsistent. Some, like Travis Outlaw, would not have their current roles if not for all the injuries.
A 2-1 or 3-0 week is possible if they can play good basketball for 48 minutes. If not, there's no telling how long this losing streak will last.
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