Slide 2½ Back of Toronto Following OT Loss in Charlotte
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Nets haven’t won the Atlantic Division title since 2006, when Lawrence Frank was their head coach, Richard Jefferson was their leading scorer and a then-32-year-old Jason Kidd was in his final full season as New Jersey’s All-Star point guard.
Eight years later, the Nets, now coached by Kidd, are unlikely to end that drought during their second season in Brooklyn, especially after their second straight heartbreaking overtime road loss.
Deron Williams scored 29 points, forcing the extra session with a long-range jumper down the stretch, but Brooklyn got a brutal bounce in overtime, ultimately dropping a 116-111 decision to the Bobcats in front of 15,943 fans at Charlotte’s Time Warner Cable Arena.
With the loss, the Nets (37-33) dropped 2½ games behind first-place Toronto in the Atlantic race with only 12 contests remaining, and also fell 2 ½ back of Chicago in the hunt for the Eastern Conference’s fourth seed and home-court advantage in the opening round of next month’s playoffs.
Brooklyn appeared to be in position for one last-gasp chance at knotting the contest late in OT.
Trailing, 114-111, with just 20 seconds to play, rookie center Mason Plumlee blocked Josh McRoberts’ bid for a game-sealing jumper.
But the ball was deflected into the waiting hands of Chris Douglas-Roberts, who calmly sank a 21-footer with 10 ticks remaining, cementing the Nets’ fate as they endured their first losing streak since the start of February.
"The only thing I could do is grab [the ball after I blocked it],” lamented Plumlee, who was starting in place of injured center Kevin Garnett (back spasms) for the 14th straight game.
“I don't know. I probably hit [Douglas-Roberts) right in the shooting pocket,” Plumlee added. “I didn't even look. But, he hit a big shot. Hats off to him."
Kidd concurred with Plumlee’s assessment of the hard-luck loss.
''I thought the defense was great, but in the end, we come up with a blocked shot, the ball bounces, and you know [Douglas-Roberts], he makes a shot with the shot clock winding down and so everybody executed,'' the first-year coach noted. ''The ball just bounced their way tonight.''
Those all-important bounces, which appeared to be going the Nets’ way for the better part of the past three months, have suddenly turned against them.
Brooklyn squandered a 22-point second-half lead in Monday night’s OT loss in New Orleans, and didn’t quite get the breaks again in Charlotte, despite battling tooth-and-nail with the Bobcats down the stretch.
All this after fighting their way back for an impressive comeback in Dallas to start the three-game road trip with an overtime triumph.
“That's three games in a row now we've got the stops we needed to send the game into overtime, so I saw a lot of positive things late,” Kidd said. "The last three have been tough, but we're getting better as a team."
The final dozen promise to be even tougher, especially if the Nets hope to climb back within striking distance of the Raptors, who extended their division lead with a 99-90 win in Boston Wednesday night.
Brooklyn will return home, where they have won a season-high 11 games in a row, Friday night to host Cleveland before welcoming Minnesota to the Barclays Center on Sunday and Houston here next Tuesday.
If the Nets can maintain their home dominance, and get some help from the Raptors’ upcoming opponents, the dream of raising a division championship banner on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues will remain alive for at least another week.
But as the games on the schedule dwindle, and Toronto continues to hold strong atop the standings, the Nets must begin to refocus their energies on getting healthy and remaining so for what they hope will be a lengthy and historic playoff run.
That’s when those unpredictable bounces, both good and bad, really begin to count.
Nothing But Net: G Jorge Gutierrez, who finished up his first 10-day contract with the team Wednesday night, was ejected from the contest after being called for a flagrant 2 foul midway through the fourth quarter. Gutierrez came down hard with his left arm against Cody Zeller’s neck, prompting the whistle and the early exit. "I didn't think it was [a flagrant 2] but I watched the replay and it looked pretty bad,” Gutierrez admitted before revealing that he wasn’t quite sure whether he would be with the Nets for the remainder of the campaign. “But that wasn't my intention to do that. Coach always says, ‘Nothing easy. Make them earn it on the free-throw line.’ I was just trying to do a hard play." … Mirza Teletovic hit 20 points for just the second time this season off the bench Wednesday and All-Star Joe Johnson added 18 for Brooklyn, which hadn’t dropped consecutive games since losing three in a row from January 27-Feb. 1. … Though it split the season series with Toronto, 2-2, Brooklyn will likely need to finish in front of the Raptors to take the Atlantic as it is behind in virtually every tiebreaker scenario.