- Last Updated: 11:26 AM, November 10, 2010
- Posted: 2:15 AM, November 10, 2010
At halftime coach Avery Johnson gave an impassioned plea to the Nets.
"My two words to the team at halftime," Johnson said, "were: 'How bad?' 'How bad do you want it?' "
Well, they wanted it real bad. Unfortunately, bad also described their offensive execution and their perimeter defense. So this was not about transforming interior defense from tissue paper into rebar. This was about defending the perimeter and execution. And you already heard how it went.
The Cavaliers, finding their identity in the post LeBron James age, shot 5-of-6 on 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, nailing three straight in a span of 1:14 to take the lead for good. So the Nets, brought to their knees by threes, never recovered and suffered their fifth straight defeat, falling 93-91 at Prudential Center.
"The fourth quarter, we had a few defensive breakdowns where we gave up some shots, some wide open threes and they made us pay for it," said Devin Harris (18 points, six assists), "especially the Anthony Parker one late."
The shot by Parker (nine points) was the dagger. The Nets (2-5), who started strong, sleepwalked through the second quarter, started the third quarter shooting 1-of-10, and then were staggered by the bevy of Cavaliers trifectas, were within four when Brook Lopez rejected Daniel Gibson at 1:34.
But Antawn Jamison took one of his eight rebounds and got the ball to Parker, who was up top, right, well behind the arc. Travis Outlaw was in his face. Parker shot from 25 feet, but the ball seemed to go a half mile up on an arc. Good.
"I was right on him. If I was any closer I would have fouled," said Outlaw, who led the Nets with 27 points. It also was his Nets high.
Outlaw answered with a three, but time was less than kind. The Nets took the worst hits of the game from 9:12 to 7:58 when Gibson (14) hit two of the Cavaliers' nine trifectas and Jawad Williams delivered another on three straight possessions. They were part of a 13-2 run that turned a five-point Nets lead into a 77-71 edge for the Cavaliers (4-3).
"We just gave up too many 3-point shots," said Johnson, whose Nets face the Cavaliers again tonight in Cleveland. "We talked about it, we looked at it, and we just didn't execute. Our closeouts weren't very good. We were a step slow. But we battled, and it could've been worse the way we played in the first half."
Use that "real bad" tag again for that. Half games just won't do it.
"I don't like our mental or physical conditioning right now," Johnson said.
The Nets were without Terrence Williams (abdominal strain, expected tonight), and Johnson was forced to mix and match. The Nets started strong, leading by nine very early. But then they became the Nets, giving away the lead in its entirety by the end of the first quarter. It stayed close and then the decisive fourth arrived with killer triples. Outlaw's buzzer 3-pointer for the Nets sliced the final deficit.
"At the end of the day, it's a loss and it's tough," Lopez said.
For the Nets who spoke so long and with such determination about increasing their presence in the paint to avoid a soft label, there was some evidence of improvement, not enough. Lopez again struggled offensively (6-of-18 shooting, 16 points and eight rebounds. "I could have attacked a little more," he said).
Troy Murphy had his best rebound game (11 boards).
There were positives. There were negatives: J.J. Hickson (18 points) rolled them to death on pick and rolls, and the Nets bench was outscored, 52-15.
"We definitely had the effort." Lopez said. "We just fell short at the end."Follow @NYPostsports