The New Jersey Nets had a chance to win three straight games for the first time in two years as well as win their first divisional game of the season against the New York Knicks Saturday night.
They whiffed on the opportunity to do so, thanks largely to their inability to capitalize on a number of openings throughout the game.
Missed dunks, clanked free throws and far too many turnovers were the main factors in the 105-95 loss from New Jersey's perspective. They were also unable to fully take advantage of an MIA Amar'e Stoudemire, who was inactive and stuck on the bench due to a toe injury.
The Knicks also made an obscene amount of three-pointers—16 to be exact.
The trend started early, as Derrick Favors missed a few dunks in the first quarter and was unable to cash in at the line. Favors did play well in other aspects of the game, however, with a career-high 14 rebounds. He was also quite solid on the defensive end.
The Nets knew that Favors was a project coming into the season and that it would take time for him to fully develop his offensive game. The fact that he showed such great energy and was aggressive whenever he was on the floor is a good sign going forward, no matter how many shots he missed.
And it's not like the rookie was the only one to leave too many points at the free-throw line.
New Jersey got to the charity stripe nine times in the fourth quarter, yet tallied just four points from there. Some makes in that final period could have, at different times, allowed the Nets to stretch out the small, brief leads they held, or could have prevented them from having to go into foul mode quite as early as they were forced to.
Let's be real here, though. The main problem was the 18 turnovers committed by the team, particularly the six times they gave the ball away in the third quarter.
What had been a high-scoring contest turned into a defensive struggle in that third frame. New York scored just 13 points then, and had the Nets taken better care of the rock and scored more than 14 points of their own, the game likely would have gone in a completely different direction.
For the Knicks, this is exactly what makes it tough to envision them making much of a run in the playoffs.
Relying on shooting and a large number of three-point baskets is a risky proposition because both of those areas of the game are, by nature, streaky.
Still, it's better to be in that position than to be pondering where in the lottery you will end up, and Net fans won't really be able to find any solace in the fact that the Knicks aren't going to win a championship this year.
There's no doubt that losing this game was tough for the Nets, with coach Avery Johnson looking more drained and down during his postgame press conference that at any point this season.
The game had a more intense and playoff-like feel to it than any game in recent Nets memory. Even with all their missed opportunities, it came down to a lack of execution when the pressure was at its climax.
It's very important, though, for New Jersey's players to be in this type of game, as it's the only way to learn how to handle the tension. Nerves were clearly a factor, and the hope will be that the experience will eventually pay dividends for the younger players who have never been in that type of atmosphere at the professional level.
It will take a while for us to find out, but, despite the loss, we could look at this game as a minor turning point for the Nets down the road. It will depend on how much they grow from the ordeal.
The team now have a day off before taking on the NBA-leading San Antonio Spurs Monday night.
Nets supporters should just hope that game is competitive.