Nets Continue West Coast Struggles

The Nets start off their five-game western swing on the wrong foot
01/23/2007 2:02 AM ET
By Al Iannazzone / Special to

Coach Frank shows his frustration.(AP)
SACRAMENTO — The Nets had their two best players, two players who shoot over 80 percent from on free throws, at the line in the final 4:06 of Monday's game. You figure they're going to hit one.

First Vince Carter goes up and he misses two with 4:06 remaining. Then 1:08 later, Jason Kidd gets there and he misses two.

When you're leading by 20 with 2:49 left and you lose 88-87, you can point to any number of plays that was the difference. And the Carter and Kidd misses were just a couple.

The biggest breakdown the Nets had was giving up two offensive rebounds after a Carter turnover with his team up 87-86. It led to Mike Bibby's game-winning 19-foot jump shot with 10.3 seconds left.

What a bad way for the Nets to start the five-game west trip, especially when they were on their way to their first win at Arco Arena since 1997.

Never mind that they were without Richard Jefferson, who had his right ankle scoped Monday afternoon and will miss about six weeks. The Nets had this game in their hands and they let it slip away with each missed free throw, shot, turnover and defensive letdown.

"It's obviously very disappointing," coach Lawrence Frank said after only the Nets' third loss in 12 games. "They started making shots. But we gave up a bunch of uncontested shots. There were a bunch of breakdowns."

This was another loss after the Nets were leading heading into the fourth quarter. And it was another time the Nets had to fight after having a double-digit lead. That has now happened in four of their last five games.

They were this-close to losing to the Knicks a few nights ago, after leading by 10 with 2:21 left, if not for a Cliff Robinson put-back with 2.8 seconds remaining.

Robinson couldn't do it again as his tip of a Kidd miss missed. But as everyone in the locker room said, it never should have come down to that.

"When we've had big leads we haven't done a real good job of holding on to them," Robinson said. "That's one thing we need to get better at, is holding on to the game when we have a team down. We have to close out games better when we have leads like that."

This one hurt because the game was in their hands. Their best players missed four free throws late. They couldn't get a needed defensive rebound. It didn't matter that Jefferson was in a hospital bed. The Nets probably felt worse than he did Monday night.

In the game's first 41:03, Bibby scored one point. He had 15 in the final 6:57.

Mikki Moore scored a career-high 22 points and hit on all eight of his field-goal tries.

The Nets haven't won here since Nov. 30, 1997

Although Kidd missed the two foul shots, he and Moore carried the Nets with Carter either on the bench in foul trouble or on the floor and being ineffective. Kidd had triple-double No. 83 with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

"We missed four free throws. We turned the ball over. They made shots. They made their free throws. The tip out - Bibby knocks down the shot. We never should have put ourselves in that position up 20. But at the same time, the ball's in our hands. We like our chances to win the game at the end.
— Kidd on the game.

"Richard got to the point where he just felt he wasn't going to get any better. He was playing with some pain. You could see it coming for a week or so. I think the game in Charlotte probably pushed him over the top when he just couldn't move. I thought he looked pretty good at the Garden. Saturday night he played pretty well, too. His feeling was he just couldn't do it. So that's what precipitated it. We'll go from there."
— Nets president Rod Thorn on Jefferson opting for surgery.

"It's the same situation. We have more ability, more scoring. At that point I think we had a little more defense. It just was a special year. What has to happen for us is us coming together, and continuing to have confidence in each other. When you have confidence in somebody, as a unit having confidence in an individual player, it makes you feel good, it makes you want to play hard for your team."
— Carter on this feeling like 2004-05, when the Nets ended the season 15-4 without Jefferson and made the playoffs on the last day.


Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.). E-mail Nets Insider at comments