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Archive for Sunday, May 9, 2004

Sour Nets searching for answers

May 9, 2004

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— Kenyon Martin squinted with a semi-menacing glare Saturday, tucking his chin toward his chest and explaining his ill demeanor.

"I'm in a bad mood, if y'all can't tell," Martin said as the New Jersey Nets got ready for the biggest game of their season, trying to avoid an 0-3 deficit today in Game 3 against Detroit.

Other members of the Nets were in less-than-perfect spirits, and coach Lawrence Frank wore his typical morning-after-a-loss attire featuring bloodshot eyes, droopy eyelids and humorless aura.

But it was Martin who appeared the most disturbed, still unsure how to explain a total second-half collapse in which the Nets were outscored 61-34 to turn a 12-point halftime lead into a 15-point loss.

"I hate losing, for one, and for us to play the way we did in the first half and not put it together in the second half was frustrating," Martin said Saturday. "I'm pretty sure everyone else has a sour taste in their mouths, but I'm just speaking for me, and my mood is probably worse than everyone else's right now."

One way to brighten Martin's day would be to keep him away from a stat sheet, and the Nets apparently failed at that task, too.

Martin was intimately familiar with the numbers and how they illustrated exactly how poorly the Nets have played. This is the first time New Jersey has fallen behind 0-2 in an Eastern Conference playoff series during its nearly three-year run of success.

Among the evidence:

l The Nets had 15 turnovers in the second half of Game 2, accounting for almost half of their total of 32 during the first two games.

l New Jersey's backcourt was outscored 56-14 in Game 2, with Jason Kidd shooting 3-for-13.

l For the series, Kidd is shooting 27 percent and his backcourt partner, Kerry Kittles, is shooting 32 percent. The Nets' much ballyhooed third offensive option, Richard Jefferson, has taken 25 shots and made only six, giving him the inglorious distinction of having the worst shooting percentage of the whole gang -- 24 percent.

"We're struggling," Jefferson conceded. "It's not what they're doing or what they weren't doing. A lot of it is us."

Game 2 got away from the Nets quickly, taking a 180-degree turn in the Pistons' favor during the third quarter and staying that way to the delight of Detroit's sellout crowd.

In New Jersey, Frank's coaching performance was being picked apart, fans complaining he wasn't quick enough to call timeouts to attempt to slow a pair of runs -- 19-2 in the third quarter and 19-6 in the fourth -- that keyed Detroit's victory.

Those were only the latest voices to chime in on the Nets' babyfaced 33-year-old coach.

Friday, Nets president Rod Thorn criticized Detroit coach Larry Brown for saying that by replacing former coach Byron Scott with Frank, the Nets demonstrated they believe "anybody can coach."

"I think that's totally off-base. And coming from him, his past, the things he's done, he has no idea what goes on with our team," Thorn said.

None of the Nets gave much credit to Brown for the Pistons' second-half turnaround, instead blaming themselves for committing too many turnovers, missing too many makable shots and not showing the same enthusiasm for rebounding as they did in the first half.

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