This season, like so many other seasons in recent memory, those NBA teams who want to be successful would find the path to excellence a lot easier to traverse if they were to do the complete opposite of what the New York Knicks have done. In fact, it would be instructive if NBA clubs were to watch game film of the Knicks' contests in order to learn to avoid the pitfalls that continually trap the Knicks in mediocrity. Had the Brooklyn Nets done so, perhaps they would have managed to avoid losing to the New Orleans Pelicans 109-104 in overtime on Monday night. Unfortunately, with the Nets doing their best New York Knicks impression, a loss was the inevitable result.
Similar to the formula the Knicks employed to lose their latest contest, the Brooklyn Nets chose to tease those watching the game by pretending that they were going to coast to an easy victory. At halftime, the Nets led the Pelicans by a robust 16 points and extended that lead out to a high of 22 points early on in the third quarter after a pair of free throws by Joe Johnson. With 15:58 left in regulation and the Nets the owners of such a comfortable lead, a win seemed almost guaranteed.
Then the wheels started to fall off slowly but surely, starting with the Nets taking a holiday from scoring. After Joe Johnson's free throws, the Nets only scored 10 points over the remaining 10 minutes in the third quarter, quite the slowing down of their offensive efficiency since they had poured in 66 points over the first 25:58 of the contest.
A lack of offensive efficiency was not the only issue plaguing the Nets, however, although it was definitely a major culprit; after halftime, the Nets only managed to convert on 30.6 percent of their field goal attempts, completely wasting their superb shooting in the first half.
They were also finding it difficult to stop the Pelicans on defense, especially when it came to defending Pelicans Tyreke Evans who scored 22 of his 33 points in the second half of the contest when the Pelicans were making their improbable run. Evans's drives to the basket proved nigh unstoppable as he continually drove his way to the basket and converted from short range. The inability to stop Evans in the third and fourth quarters and Anthony Morrow in overtime proved to be the undoing of the team.
If one were so inclined to make excuses for the Nets or justify why their level of play dropped so precipitously over the final 29 minutes of the contest, acknowledging that they were playing on the second night of a back-to-back, a night after playing in overtime against the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday, would definitely be a good starting point. Perhaps fatigue would explain why the Nets found it such an impossible task to execute their assignments during the second half and overtime periods.
Still, one would hope that even a tired team would be able to protect a gargantuan 22-point lead. Basically, all a team has to do to hold their advantage is to tread water; the Nets were unable to do even that.
With the Nets secure in their bid to make the postseason, Monday's loss will not prove to be too damaging, but being unable to hold a 22-point lead against one of the weaker Western Conference teams is not encouraging for their chances of success once they actually make it to the playoffs.