Sunday, June 09, 2002

Nets shooting woes have to end



By TOM CANAVAN
AP Sports Writer

        EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New Jersey Nets couldn't get out of Los Angeles fast enough.

        The trip to California for the first two games of the NBA Finals was a bust.

        Shaquille O'Neal and the Lakers had their way with the Nets in almost embarrassing fashion in moving within two win of a third straight title.

        “The Meadowlands is going to look good, real good,” backup guard Lucious Harris said. “Getting back there and getting out of Staples is going to great, and the rims have got to be kinder.”

        After hitting 37-for-94 (39.4 percent) in Game 1 on Wednesday, the Nets were even worse in Game 2, converting 30 of 86 (34.9 percent).

        Harris, who been on a hot streak, was the coldest of the bunch going 1-for-14. He wasn't alone. Kenyon Martin was 9-for-30 in the two games, while Keith Van Horn was 8-for-23 and Jason Kidd 17-for-43.

        “This isn't the way we want to play basketball,” Nets coach Byron Scott said after the Nets dropped a 106-84 decision to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday to fall behind 2-0 in the best-of-seven series.

        “We want to get up and down the floor,” Scott added. “Right now, we're not being a very disciplined team. We're not running the break like we have all season.”

        With O'Neal clogging the middle, there have been few easy baskets.

        In the two games in Los Angeles, the Nets never looked like the team that won 52 games with an uptempo style in which the top seven players contributed.

        When they won this season, they usually had six or seven players contribute double figures in scoring. They had only four the first game and three the second.

        O'Neal had his way with them, scoring 36 in the opener and 40 on Friday. What was even more impressive was his shooting, 26-for-45.

        “We're going to have to make some adjustments against Shaquille O'Neal,” said Van Horn, who has been a non-factor. “We can't let him average 38 points against us. We're not going to win with him scoring 38.”

        The Nets also need more from Kidd, if his right knee is OK.

        The All Star point guard tried to get his teammates more involved in Game 2 and it backfired when it took him out of the flow in the first half.

        Kidd scored all 17 of his points in the second half. He also collided with Lakers forward Robert Horry midway through the third quarter and bruised the knee, but expects to play.

        The Nets have played well at the Continental Airlines Arena. They were 33-8 during the regular season and they are 7-2 in the postseason.

        And the crowd is bound to be wild with New Jersey hosting its first games in a finals.

        “We can't continue to play in spurts, play 15 good minutes of basketball and eight minutes of basketball that we're not accustomed to playing,” Scott said. “We're playing the best team in the world. We're playing the world champions. If we're going to keep playing in spurts, then we're going to be in trouble.”

        If history holds, the Nets already are in major trouble. Since the NBA switched to a 2-3-2 format for the finals, no home team that has won the first two games has lost the championship.

        “We've been persevering all year long through problems,” said Nets guard Kerry Kittles, who led them with 23 points on Friday. “We'll continue to work through this.”

        And the Nets will hope the rims at the Meadowlands prove a lot kinder than Shaq has been.

       



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