Sunday, June 8
Nets' worst nightmare comes true in Game 3
By Fred Carter
Special to ESPN.com
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New Jersey Nets' worst nightmare came true Sunday night.
Coming off a huge road victory, the Nets played the Spurs in front of their raucous home crowd and lost. They forced 17 turnovers, scored 21 fastbreak points and still fell into a 2-1 series hole with an 84-79 defeat. Shooting guard and forgotten man Kerry Kittles scored 21 points and they still lost. This was a terrible night for the Nets.
And part of the blame falls on Game 2 hero Jason Kidd. Kidd didn't give this team what it needed in Game 3. It's easy to forget that Kidd isn't the offensive catalyst for this team in the traditional way. He is not the type of player who will score 30 points a game a la Tracy McGrady or Kobe Bryant. Kidd is the type of player who will fill out a box score and beat you in every facet of the game. On Sunday night, that didn't happen. He was throughly outplayed by his counterpart Tony Parker, who outplayed Kidd for the second time in the Finals.
But this can't all be blamed on Kidd. The Nets have shown an inability to solve the Spurs' zone defense. It has become their version of the rubix cube and is part of the reason why they shot only 37 percent from the field. When the zone is enacted against them, almost inevitably there's a lull in the offense for four to five minutes at a time. The way to beat the zone is with good ball movement and even better outside shooting and right now the Nets aren't getting either one.
While facing the zone, the Nets start to simply replace each other in positions without doing what they do best in a half-court system. The Nets are best -- in the half court -- when they're running their motion offense and getting good movement from their swingmen. This isn't happening in the series because guys like Richard Jefferson are doing a poor job of spacing and making jumpers. If Jefferson can start to be as aggressive as Kittles was in Game 3, then the Nets will have no worries in Game 4. But that's a big if because the Spurs have done a very good job of bottling Jefferson up.
The Nets needed this win and they let it slip out of their hands. They've now given the Spurs -- a good road team -- the confidence that they can win on their homecourt. That's the type of edge that you don't want to give a team as talented as the Spurs are.
|Jason Kidd followed up his breakout Game 2 with a flop in Game 3.|
Fred Carter is an NBA analyst for ESPN.