Heading into December, the Brooklyn Nets were 11-4, in the midst of a five-game winning streak, and tied for first with the Knicks in the Atlantic Division. It was just a week after the Nets' thrilling overtime win over the Knicks at Barclays, and one wondered if we were looking at two top-tier Eastern Conference teams right here in the city. But every time the Nets have opened up a door of their advent calendar this month, it has brought them a loss.
Despite a thirteen-point halftime lead and another good game from Joe Johnson (who's starting to come around), the Nets lost at home last night to the Utah Jazz 92–90, yet another home loss in which they blew a lead. The Nets were wiped out in the third quarter — "we were awful," said coach Avery Johnson — and the Jazz took advantage. (It's the eighth time this year the Nets have lost after leading at halftime.) Utah, which helped rebuild their whole roster by trading away the man who is now the Nets' franchise player, tends to play better when facing Deron Williams; the Jazz are now 3-0 against him.
Williams didn't do himself many favors, again, going 5-for-12 from the field and missing all three of his three-pointers. Considering he was playing against his former team — in a system in which he famously thrived, albeit a system he forced a trade to get away from — and his recent criticism (walked back immediately, of course) of the Nets, Williams is becoming a bit of an issue; the superstar who isn't surly, exactly, but whose grousing and inconsistent play is causing fans to worry about that massive contract the Nets just handed him. The Nets are back hovering around .500 in large part because of how much Williams is struggling. This is the downside of being a franchise player. The Nets still had a chance to win this, too, with a steal in the final seconds, but Gerald Wallace missed a three-pointer and Reggie Evans missed a putback. Thus, another loss.
And yeah, December has been terrible: The Nets are 2-7 this month, particularly worrisome considering all but two of those games have been at home. It's not time to panic or anything; the Hollinger Playoff Odds at ESPN (do they have to change the name on those now?) have them at 89.8 percent a playoff team. But getting into the playoffs was never just the goal. Right now, the Nets look extremely wobbly. And just in time for their first trip to MSG tonight.