Poor shooting, turnovers doom struggling Nets in loss to Celtics
This was another opportunity to showcase themselves to the nation, introduce their revamped team to millions of casual observers who may have turned on the television as they opened presents or sipped egg nog.
Too bad the Nets essentially gave them the equivalent of a stocking full of coal.
"It was a big game for us, division rivals," Deron Williams said. "We were ready for a big game. It just didn't happen."
Talk about an understatement. The listless Nets proved they're still not completely ready for prime time, making countless errors and shooting poorly from the field in a 93-76 loss to the Celtics Tuesday.
Most of the sellout Christmas Day matinee crowd of 17,732 left Barclays Center with very little to cheer about after watching the Nets (14-13) fall to 3-9 in December. Brook Lopez and Gerald Wallace each had 15 points to lead the Nets.
"It hurts regardless, especially with the way we've been struggling this month," Wallace said. "We can't afford losses in the standings or personally as a team. We've got to get some kind of momentum going as a team where we can start smiling again. Right now, everything just seems down.
"We're dropping our heads on every little mistake, every little mess-up. It's carrying over from the locker room even onto the court and it shows. We are not playing like we are supposed to be playing."
The Nets struggled mightily in two key areas. They committed 20 turnovers, which led to 25 points for the Celtics (14-13), and they failed to consistently knock down shots.
They threw up enough bricks to lay the foundation for the new housing towers that are set to rise in the arena's shadows over the coming years, making just 26 of 64 attempts from the floor (40.6 percent) -- many with the shot clock set to expire. The Nets also made only 17 of 29 free throws, and got visibly down on themselves when things weren't going their way.
"We missed a ton of free throws," Jerry Stackhouse said. "I think the free throws alone could have given us a good chance to be in the game and make it an interesting game in the end. We fought back a little bit, but for the most part, even with the turnovers we had, and the missed free throws, we still had looks in the second half that we've just got to make."
About the only time the Nets showed some heart was in the fourth quarter. That's when Wallace and Kevin Garnett -- who had a few love taps in last month's meeting in Boston during the scuffle involving Rajon Rondo and Kris Humphries -- got tangled up and Wallace tried to brace himself from falling by holding on to Garnett's shorts.
"The whole thing was a movie," Garnett said. "People get caught up in the shenanigans. That play was over with. We were trying to make sure each other was safe and that was it. I don't know where in America you can [pull] somebody's pants off. I don't know what the hell was going on."
The Nets know they have to stop pressing the snooze button at some point and get a grip on things quickly.
"It's already a concern, no way around that," Deron Williams said. "We feel like we could be a good team . . . Coach has been talking a lot about trust, trusting each other out on the court.
"We've just got to get back to that, and I think we can. I think we're the type of team that can. We like playing with each other and we've just got to figure a way to get it going."