One Win Is Better Than None

The Nets' victory over the Nuggets saved their road trip out West
01/28/2007 1:35 AM ET
By Al Iannazzone / Special to

The Nets held Carmelo Anthony to 5 of 14 shooting.(AP)
SALT LAKE CITY — The trip ends here and because of what happened in Denver it won't be another wasted week out West for the Nets.

Sure, they could be 4-0 instead of 1-3. But coach Lawrence Frank said before Denver "Could have, if — it's all about the next time or this time. It's disheartening, but you get right back up."

The Nets got right back up in Denver with a stirring second-half performance, when they outscored the Nuggets 60-49 and held Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson to 12 points after intermission. But the second quarter also was huge for the Nets, particularly the play of Bostjan Nachbar.

When New Jersey got down 14 in the first and was down 13 still in the second, things very easily could have gone south, especially if the Nets were mentally fragile after back-to-back-to-back one-point losses.

Then here comes the man affectionately referred to as Boki. Nachbar, who has had a great trip, picking up the scoring for injured Richard Jefferson, led the Nets back.

During one stretch, Nachbar scored 14 of the Nets' 16 points. His turnaround jumper inside cut it to 41-40. He carried the Nets in that second period and into the third where Vince Carter and the Nets' defense took over.

Chemistry seems to be brewing between Nachbar and rookie point guard Marcus Williams. They've been spending a lot of time on the floor together, especially on this trip. They're looking for each other and producing offensively.

Nachbar finished with a career-high 22 points at Denver. It was his third-straight game of at least 14. He's averaged 17.7 points and seven rebounds the last three. Williams had 11 points, and enjoyed his third-consecutive double-figure game.

"They've put together three very good games," Frank said. "Boki, getting the opportunity has really taken advantage of it. We're really proud of those guys."

The thing you have to like about Nachbar is his aggressiveness. He's not shy in shooting the three or in driving to the basket. He likes to dunk over people. He had two driving slams in the second period Saturday.

Nachbar also is taking advantage of playing with Carter late in games. Vince gets all the attention and it leaves Nachbar open. He's averaging eight points in the fourth period the last three games, and was nearly a hero at Golden State but his three was a little long.

All that matters to the Nets is they ended their 0-8 road drought against the West. Nachbar said after the Clippers' loss, "We should have been 3-0 instead of 0-3. That's what hurts. But the trip is not over yet. I think if we go home 2-3, we'll be all right."

The Nets have a chance when they play a Jazz team that may be without Andrei Kirilenko and Carlos Boozer. They Nets could be 4-0 with a chance to go 5-0, but going home 2-3, all things considered, would be all right.


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

Saturday, January 28: Posted at 1:35 1.m. ET

A night of redemption for Carter

By Al Iannazzone/Special to

DENVER — Vince Carter turned 30 Friday and dropped 40 on the Nuggets Saturday night in leading the Nets to a 112-102 win.

It wasn't so much the number as the way he did it and one of the reasons he did it.

All of the Nets were sick and tired of the one-point losses, but perhaps no one more than Carter, especially since he hung his head after two of the losses.

The last one, Carter blamed himself for leaving Cuttino Mobley wide open for the three-pointer that gave the Clippers a 102-101 win Thursday. It was still bothering Carter on the morning of his birthday and still on his mind Saturday. Now, it's officially gone.

"I felt I let the team down in the last game on that last play," Carter said, "so I came out and wanted to give maximum effort from beginning to end."

Carter did that, but he wasn't the only one.

Bostjan Nachbar led the Nets back from 14 down and scored a career-high 22 points. Antoine Wright went from not playing to having to guard the NBA's leading scorer, Carmelo Anthony. Jason Kidd limited Allen Iverson.

Everyone chipped in and helped hold two of the league's top three scorers to 41 points combined, which was 20 under their average.

Carter was brilliant, though. For the third straight game, he had a single purpose and drive and that was to do what the Nets needed to win.

He had 23 points and 13 assists at Golden State, and then 33 at the Clippers, but mental and physical breakdowns clouded both games. There were no such things Saturday, no lapses from Carter and one huge win for the Nets.

"For us to give ourselves a chance to win these games and have these mental breakdowns, it's tough," Carter said. "It's tough to lose by one point and then it's tough to be the one that let it happen, so I took that personal."

The Nets showed resilience and mental toughness by winning this game. It was about redemption for the Nets, and for Carter.

Iverson and Anthony were held to 1-for-12 shooting and 12 points in the second half, two more than Wright.

After being benched 11 times in the prior 19 games and only playing 15 minutes this month, Wright started at small forward and helped hold Anthony nine points below his scoring average.

The Nets were 0-8 on the road against the West this season before this win.

Eddie House missed his first foul shot of the season. He was 11 of 11 before Saturday.

Carter carried the Nets offensively, scoring 28 points after halftime and 20 in the fourth period. His 40 was one fewer than Anthony and Iverson combined.

"I knew there could be a night like this, when coach could call me to play, so I stayed in shape. It helped me tonight — I was only a little tired. Coach said any day could be my day." — Wright on going from not playing to a night like this

"I got up for it, because I haven't been playing. I wanted to come out and take the challenge. First play of the game he hit a big shot. I tried to just block that out and come out and have energy. That's what helped me." — Wright on guarding Anthony

"It's easy to have a good attitude when things are going well. When things are not going well, this is where you learn. Failure is never fatal and failure is on that pathway to success. You know, there's that road. You've got to go through failure." — Frank on staying upbeat after three one-point losses in a row.


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

Friday, January 26: Posted at 8:52 p.m. ET

A gut-wrenching road trip

By Al Iannazzone/Special to

DENVER — The incredulous head-shaking, half smiles and overall feeling of this couldn't have happened again filled the Nets' locker room Thursday night in the Staples Center.

In four nights, the Nets lost three games by a total of three points. All three losses came on the opposing team's last possession and two of them were in the game's final second. The Nets became only the fourth team in NBA history to endure back-to-back-to-back one-point losses.

To truly put it in perspective, 18-year vet Cliff Robinson, who has played in 1,349 regular season games, has never seen a trifecta like this one.

"Not three in a row, no," he said. "This is the first time where I've seen three in a row, where you put yourself in position to win three games on the road and lost on a last-second shot."

Incredibly, if the Nets could close out teams they could be on a 10-game winning streak, dating back to Jan. 13 at Minnesota where they wasted a 10-point third-quarter lead.

Usually, this all evens out at the end of the season with teams winning games that they probably shouldn't. But this might not be one of those times.

The Nets have lost seven games this season when they've led by double-digits, including three by 16 or more. Their 102-101 loss at the Clippers Thursday doesn't fall in the category of blowing large leads, but it was another example of the Nets' inability to shut the door and execute late.

With that game, the Nets ended the easy part of the five-game West trip. Now they face Denver and Utah — two of the West's better teams.

Certainly, 2-3 would be a good trip and everyone would say how resilient and mentally tough the Nets were for coming back from those first three if they accomplished that. But two things have to happen: they must have a lead that even they can't relinquish or regain the late-game execution from last year and from a few weeks back.

It's not just one thing. The Nets are doing many things wrong in losing these games and these leads.

The first night in Sacramento, when a 20-point lead vanished, Vince Carter and Jason Kidd each missed a pair of foul shots in the final 4:06, and Carter committed two turnovers in the last 72 seconds.

The next game in Golden State, when leads of 16 and 11 disappeared, Carter foolishly fouled Baron Davis while taking a three that led to three free throws, committed a costly offensive foul and took an ill-advised shot.

The next night in Los Angeles, when the Nets came back from 18 down, they missed three fourth-quarter free throws — two by Carter and one by Kidd. And Carter also left Cuttino Mobley open for the game-winning three.

Clearly, it hasn't been a good trip thus far for Carter. He played brilliantly Thursday with 33 points, but when you lose, you remember the fourth-quarter mistakes the most, especially from your most clutch player.

That said, it hasn't been a good trip for coach Lawrence Frank either.

Frank deserves credit for keeping the team together amid all the distractions and injuries and drama they've had this season. He has them prepared, and not only in games but many times in control, even though starters Richard Jefferson and Nenad Krstic are home on their couches unable to walk without assistance.

But if the NBA is a possession-by-possession game, then on the final possession, when you desperately need a stop to get a win — and you desperately need a win — rookie Marcus Williams should not be on the floor guarding crafty veteran Sam Cassell.

Maybe Frank should have dusted off Antoine Wright or Hassan Adams for that one play, and put either on Corey Maggette and put Kidd on Cassell. The 14-year vet easily got by Williams, causing Carter to leave Mobley. Cassell makes the feed and Mobley knocks it down — ball game.

The same can be said the night before when the Nets couldn't stop the Warriors in the final 4:11. If you need to win that game and you need a stop, you have to have your better defensive players out there.

It's tough because the Nets have had so many injuries, which makes using a set rotation difficult. And bench players Williams and Bostjan Nachbar have provided big offensive lifts on this trip. But Williams went from barely playing, especially in the second half, last week, to now finishing games and guarding the ball.

This, of course, is because Jefferson is not here. It's not the only reason the Nets lost and have been losing. So many things go into back-to-back-to-back one-point defeats. Frank called it Groundhog Day. It certainly feels like it.


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

Friday, January 26: Posted at 11:22 a.m. ET

Nets can't catch a break

By Al Iannazzone/Special to

LOS ANGELES — The Nets found themselves in a different position, this time trailing by double digits in the second half. But they turned the tables only to set themselves up for another fall.

This is getting ridiculous. Strike that, it is ridiculous. Three games, three leads in the final minute and three one-point losses. The latest for the Nets was Thursday's 102-101 emotionally draining defeat to the Clippers at the Staples Center.

The Nets came back from 18 down and were up three with 1:32 left and two in the closing seconds before Vince Carter left Cuttino Mobley to help Marcus Williams, who got beat by Sam Cassell.

The two-time champion and ex-Net knew what to do and kicked it to Mobley for the three that won it with six-tenths of a second. Remember, about 24 hours earlier, Monta Ellis knocked down a 17-footer at the buzzer to lift the Warriors to a 110-109 win over the Nets.

So many questions to be asked:

What was Williams, a rookie and defensive liability, doing in the game at that point?

Cassell is a 14-year veteran, who played the high pick-and-roll with Elton Brand perfectly. For the second night in a row, when the Nets needed a stop, their best defensive players weren't on the floor.

What was Carter thinking?

Of course it was instinct after Cassell got past Williams, but you're always taught about time and situation.

"I'd rather it be a 2 than a 3," a dejected Carter said. "So I take the onus for that. Like I said, for us to fight so hard to get back in the game and play as well as we did up until that point, I screwed it up."

Lastly, how do the Nets rebound from this?

They should be 3-0 on this trip instead of 0-3. These were the three winnable games and they were in position to win all three. Now they go to Denver and Utah. This could very easily turn into an 0-5 trip unless the Nets completely forget about what happened Thursday, and Wednesday, and Monday.

"You put your heart and souls as a player and a coach into this," coach Lawrence Frank said. "This hurts, every freakin' loss hurts. The fact that you put all three together it really hurts you."

Three games, three one-point losses, two in the final second — what a trip.

Bostjan Nachbar and Marcus Williams combined for 33 points — 22 in the second half — one night after combining for 31.

For the third straight game, Carter had three-first half fouls. And for the second-consecutive night, he was hit with a technical for arguing after getting his third personal.

Jason Collins was 6-for-26 from the line in his prior 14 games and shot 5-for-5 from the stripe Thursday. He hit two with 2:28 left to tie the game.

Carter had 33 a game-high points and nearly willed the Nets to the win. But he's still kicking himself for leaving Mobley open.


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

Thursday, January 25: Posted at 2:24 a.m. ET

Nets have to finish

By Al Iannazzone/Special to

OAKLAND, CA — This one hurt more than the last one for the Nets, was more crushing. Yet the mood in the locker room wasn't as bad as Monday night in Sacramento.

Even coach Lawrence Frank seemed to take it better than Monday's one-point loss to the Kings, when the Nets blew a 20-point lead.

Not that chairs should have been thrown or blackboards broken after Monta Ellis' 17-foot buzzer-beating baseline jumper gave the Warriors a 110-109 victory, but the Nets should have shown some emotion. Their coach should have shown some emotion.

Mikki Moore showed the most and he was upset that a foul wasn't called on the Nets' last possession, but you're not going to get a call like that, in a tight game late and on the road.

As has been the case on so many occasions, it never should have come down to one shot — Bostjan Nachbar's baseline three that hit the far side of the rim. The Nets led by 16 in the first and early in the second, squandered it and then led by 11 with 4:22 left.

You have to close it out. Especially after the last game, after blowing a 20-point lead in 14:40 in Sacramento, you have to close it out. You have to do whatever it takes to get it done.

Frank probably should have made some defensive substitutions when the Warriors were outscoring the Nets 17-5 in the final 4:11.

He had Nachbar and Marcus Williams, a bad defender, on the floor. At that time, when the Nets needed a stop, maybe Frank should have gone with Hassan Adams and Antoine Wright.

Hindsight is 20-20, but the Nets are 20-22 and probably should be 25-17. They're making the same mistakes over and over (see Boston, Miami, Minnesota, Portland, Sacramento). Something's got to change or something will change.

President Rod Thorn won't stand for too many more losses like this. This was the third in the last seven games in which the Nets fell after leading by double-digits. It would have been four had Cliff Robinson not tipped in Vince Carter's miss against the Knicks.

Yet here were the Nets, saying they'll be OK and that tomorrow or tonight against the Clippers is another game. It's another game and another chance for the Nets to suffer another humiliating, potentially devastating and inexcusable defeat.

You have to begin to wonder how many more of these can this team, this coach, and the Nets president take?

The Nets played sloppily throughout and committed 22 turnovers — eight by Jason Kidd — that led to 29 points.

Mikki Moore made his first three shots before misfiring. That miss broke a streak of 13 consecutive makes over three games.

For the seventh-straight game, the Nets held at least a 10-point lead. (Their biggest Wednesday was 16.) They're now 4-3 in those games.

Playing his third game as a Golden State Warrior, Al Harrington had 29 points. He was big in the periods when the Nets blew their two double-digit leads. He had 15 in the second and nine in the fourth.

"That's basketball. If we minimized our mistakes our record could be a lot better. That's not the case right now. On this trip, we put our position to win two games and we're 0-2." — Kidd on all the mistakes the Nets have made

"In this business you never know what can happen. But I would love to one day maybe have the opportunity to not play but to be in management back in the Bay Area. But I enjoy New Jersey and I hope I can end my career in New Jersey." — San Fran native Kidd on whether he would like to end his career back home.


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

Tuesday, January 23: Posted at 7:24 p.m. ET

Recovering from a tough loss

By Al Iannazzone/Special to

SAN FRANCISCO — A day after what might have been the Nets' worst loss of the season — some may say the Boston game with Paul Pierce's buzzer-beater, but I tend to think Sacramento 88, New Jersey 87 was worse — Lawrence Frank assembled his team in a room and showed them film.

He showed them the good plays and the breakdowns. There were plenty of the latter.

You don't blow a 20-point lead in fewer than 15 minutes unless you do many things wrong. Giving Sac three shots in the final 25 seconds was a killer, but there was more.

This is the normal course of action. You show them what they did wrong and hope it doesn't happen again. The problem is this wasn't the first time the Nets have done this.

They were up 20 on Boston and lost, up 10 on Minnesota and lost and now 20 again on the Kings and lost.

And there have been other games, like the Knicks game last week, when the Nets gave away a 10-point lead with 2:21 left and only pulled out the win because of Cliff Robinson's tip in. Two nights earlier in Charlotte, the Nets let a 23-point cushion slip away and were in a dogfight late.

You get the picture. It's a trend, something the Nets need to stop because they could be a couple of games above .500, if only they could close out teams.

"We felt that last night we gave one away and we've done that quite a few times," Jason Kidd said. "In that loss column, we gave a lot of games away."

The bus ride from Sacramento here was very quiet Monday night. But for the most part, the Nets weren't hanging their heads Tuesday. You have to have a short memory in sports. That way, you're able to move on and try and get the next one.

Mikki Moore said the Nets are "going to recover" and Vince Carter said it wouldn't "snowball." But Carter seemed to be the Net most down.

It wasn't his season-low eight points or his foul trouble that got Carter down. It was missing two foul shots with 4:06 left when the Nets had a chance to go up nine.

"That didn't sit well more than anything," he said.

Carter also missed two late in the Knicks' game, but Robinson saved him with the late tip shot. Cliff couldn't duplicate that feat against the Kings.

So now it's on to the Golden State game Wednesday.

You can expect a big game from Kidd, because he loves to play at home. The Nets, and everyone else, would like to see how Carter bounces back from this one.

It's obvious they need him to produce and produce in crunch time, especially with Richard Jefferson shelved for six weeks. Carter didn't do it against the Kings with two missed foul shots and two turnovers late.

It was part of the film Frank showed his team Tuesday. He's done it before because they've given him every reason. Maybe this time it will sink in because if it had, the other times there wouldn't have been a Sacramento 88, New Jersey 87.


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

Tuesday, January 23: Posted at 2:02 a.m. ET

Nets continue west coast struggles

By Al Iannazzone/Special to

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.). comments