The New Jersey Nets had a road record of 3-16 going into last night’s game against Washington, and although that is not quite as bad as the 0-17 road record the Wizards are sporting, it still is not something to be proud of at all. Avery Johnson might not have been able to coach his team to a successful road record, but prior to the game, he laid out a blueprint on how it could be done:
So let’s break down what the Nets did against the Wizards Friday night using Avery’s formula:
The bonus was never really an issue for the Nets or the Wizards. Neither team was in the bonus in the first quarter, both teams were in it in the second, the Wizards were in it in the third quarter, and the Nets returned the favor in the fourth. New Jersey did out-rebound the Wizards 48-39, despite not having a single player reach double digits in that category. That was the good news for the Nets.
The bad news is that their best players, Devin Harris and Brook Lopez, were never factors in the game. Both players were virtually non-existent in the first quarter when the Wizards just about put the game out of reach with a 31-13 advantage. Harris was 0-for-5 with one point, and Lopez was 1-for-2 with just two points and a rebound. Lopez bounced back with eight points in the second quarter, but then he only scored four points the rest of the game, as his teammates simply stopped looking for him in the second half — it’s not like Lopez’s teammates know how to get him the ball anyway. Harris only played 19 minutes and was bothered by a strained quad that came via a collision with Kirk Hinrich. He finished with just four points and three assists.
When Coach Johnson watches video of this Wizards-Nets game, he’ll realize it was lost by his team’s inability to knock down open shots. Aside from Jordan Farmar (14 points on 5-of-9 shooting) no one could consistently knock down the open shot. Rookie Derrick Favors, making just his second start of the year, went 1-for-8, Devin Harris went 1-for-7, and the biggest offender was Sasha Vujacic, who shot an horrendous 1-for-14 from the field. The Nets shot 29-percent for the first half, and 34-percent for the game. As mentioned, they had an advantage in rebounds, but mostly on the offensive end, which will happen when you miss so many shots.
After the 97-77 loss, Coach Johnson knew exactly why his team dropped to 3-17 on the road:
Following Coach Johnson’s post-game comments, I asked both Vujacic and Kris Humphries whether they thought this loss was due to something the Wizards were doing, or whether their wounds were self-inflicted:
“They played extremely hard, and we expected that because they’ve been doing that at home, but in no way did we think they’d jump out and get on top of us in the first quarter like that. They capitalized on us not playing defense, and dug us in a hole, and when you’re playing on the road, you just can’t allow that to happen — I mean, we know the formula for winning on the road, but we just didn’t do it. We missed all our open shots and Rashard Lewis was hitting everything in site in that first quarter, even though we were trying to deny him looks. So us missing and him hitting added up to us being down by 20 (it was actually 18) after the first, and we didn’t recover.” -Kris Humphries
“I don’t know that the Wizards did anything to throw his off, we just had an off-night, and its disappointing because we just came off a good performance at home against the Bulls. But on the road is different, we needed our big players to step up, and it didn’t happen, and no one is more guilty than me — I shot horribly and I missed a ton of open shots. They created a big lead at the beginning of the game, and we were playing catch up, but you can’t shoot badly, play poor defense and expect to win.” -Sasha Vujacic
Other Nets observations:
Josh Howard has yet to really demonstrate how much of an asset he can be to the Wizards because of his troubled left knee. He tore the ACL in that knee last March, and since he was activated on Dec. 18th, he has been in and out of the lineup with residual effects. But just four short years ago, Howard averaged 15 points and six rebounds for a Dallas Mavericks team that advanced to the NBA Finals. His coach was Avery Johnson (they did a “Got Milk” ad together) and one of his teammates was Devin Harris. I asked both of them to talk a little about Josh Howard before last night’s game.
“Josh was a damn good teammate. He was always encouraging, he was always the type of guy who would go to battle for you, and he’s definitely an aggressive scorer, and he’s got lots of range to his game. He can hit you with the mid-range pull up, or step back for a three, he can get to basket and the free-throw line with ease, so he was a big part of what we did in Dallas. In terms of the Wizards, first and foremost, he’s gotta get healthy, I mean obviously he’s had some knee problems, but once he gets 100% I think he can play a similar role. I think I was watching the game when those guys played Miami, I think it was his first game back, and being impressed with how aggressive he was. That’s the Josh Howard I know, and I think in the second half of this season, he’ll have an effect on this team.” -Devin Harris