Philadelphia 76ers vs. New Jersey Nets: Nets Can't Win When Stars Don't Shine

Ryan ComstockCorrespondent IFebruary 2, 2011

Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

The New Jersey Nets have been able to put on a good show recently largely due to a dramatic increase in production from almost every player on the team, particularly co-captains Devin Harris and Brook Lopez.

The duo has been playing at such a high level recently that it stood to reason they would come back to Earth and have some sub-par games before too long.

Everything evens out eventually. Even the absolute best have poor showings.

That inevitable letdown came at an awful time for the team, however, as both Harris and Lopez faltered in the same game.

The Philadelphia 76ers beat the Nets Wednesday night by a final score of 106-92. If even one of them had been on, it's safe to say the score would have, at the very least, been much closer.

Harris and Lopez have both been playing at an elite level lately.

Harris has been running the point to the tune of setting career highs in assists in consecutive games while Lopez has been an unstoppable force in the scoring department.

Wednesday night, though, Lopez (8-of-19 for 16 points) couldn't find his shot and Harris wasn't so precise.

Harris (16 points on 5-for-8 shooting) did show some life in terms of his shot, but had five turnovers and just wasn't as sharp. Seven assists is by no means a bad number, it's just a step below the level he had been playing at.

It was a tough and frustrating game for the Nets. So much so that coach Avery Johnson lost his mind when the refs missed a clear foul on Harris.

The tirade led to Johnson being ejected from the game and there's little doubt he went off in an attempt to light a fire for his team. For a brief time they responded, too, showing an uptick in energy and cutting down the swelling Sixers lead to a manageable deficit.

It just wasn't enough. Philadelphia is better. They're deeper and don't have anyone on the roster who drags the team down. The Nets are stuck with Travis Outlaw, Stephen Graham and Johan Petro for now. The Sixers can give them an idea of where they need to get to not just in performance, but in personnel as well.

New Jersey simply isn't in a position where their two best players can struggle. That fact surely increases the pressure on Lopez and Harris, but that's part of being captains.

The good news is this team isn't too far away. Philadelphia didn't dominate this game the way the final score might suggest.

The Nets actually shot a higher percentage from the floor. What killed them were the 13 offensive rebounds they gave up and the 12 turnovers they committed, which led to 12 more total shot attempts for the Sixers.

Even with Harris and Lopez having down games, better play in those areas would still have give the team a chance to win. Maybe not a great chance, but a chance nonetheless.

New Jersey has yet to win a division game this season (they are 0-7 against their foes in the Atlantic), a distinction shared only with Minnesota.

They won't be able to fix that this week, although they can get back on track with a win in Detroit Friday night.

The Nets haven't won a road game in over a month. If Harris and Lopez can regain their form, that streak should be snapped.