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Oh, Shoot: They Just Can't Do It

June 09, 2002|Elliott Teaford

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. --The Nets, trailing the Lakers two games to none, are in trouble for a number of reasons--not the least of which is the fact that they are a jump-shooting team that suddenly can't shoot.

The Nets have made 67 of 180 shots (37.2%) in two games. Their best shooters, the players whose perimeter play deflated the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, have gone stone cold.

Point guard Jason Kidd: 17 for 43.

Shooting guard Kerry Kittles: 12 for 26.

Small forward Keith Van Horn: eight for 23.

Reserve guard Lucious Harris: one for 14.

To be sure, the Lakers have pressured the Nets nearer the basket, having given up too much too often to the Sacramento Kings in the West finals. But many of the Nets' jump shots are uncontested.

The key, according to Van Horn, is the Lakers' willingness to take away the Nets' medium-range game. The Lakers have been daring the Nets to beat them from the outside. So far, the Lakers have won the gamble.

"I think they've done a good job of plugging up the lane and forcing us to take jumpers," Van Horn said. "We relied on our jump shots too much, especially early on in the first half [of Games 1 and 2]. We need to be more aggressive going to the hoop and attacking them and getting them in foul trouble."


Here's all you need to know about the Nets' dependence on outside shooting: Laker center Shaquille O'Neal had one foul in Game 1 and two in Game 2. The Lakers had 20 fouls called against them Wednesday and 21 on Friday.

"When you're going through a situation like that, you need to get to the free-throw line," Van Horn said of the Nets' poor shooting. "We need to get into the paint, get in a rhythm that way and be more aggressive in terms of going to the basket."

Of course, free throws haven't been a cinch for New Jersey either. The Nets are 32 of 53 at the line for a paltry 60.4%


Van Horn discounted the notion that the Nets struggled to start Game 2 because Kidd went scoreless in five shots. Kidd would make six of 12 in the second half en route to 17 points.

"Just because Jason wasn't playing on a high level doesn't mean we should be down as much," Van Horn said, referring to the Nets' 10-point deficit with 3:55 remaining in the first quarter Friday.

"It's a team game and collectively we needed to come out a little better. You can't put it all on Jason."


The Nets wanted the pace brisk in the Finals, and it has been, but in the Lakers' favor. That's another troubling aspect of the Nets' deficit, according to Coach Byron Scott, who pointed out the Lakers' 16-10 advantage in fastbreaks in Game 2.

"This isn't the way we want to play basketball," Scott said. "We want to get it up and down the floor. Right now, we're not being a very disciplined team, to be honest with you. We're not running the break like we've been running it all season long.

"That's something that concerns me."

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