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The New Jersey Nets have now dropped six straight after their 102-89 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night. Any time a team is playing as inconsistently as the Nets, it gets harder and harder to see the positives from each game but it's important for both the team and fan base to see the silver lining.
With that in mind, here are 3 good stats from the Nets loss to Mavs.
1. 21 Points, 8 for 17 Shooting
Early in the season it seemed as if Anthony Morrow and Travis Outlaw couldn't both play well on the same night. Then over the last week as Outlaw fell out of favor with head coach Avery Johnson, Morrow started to come around. He has scored in double figures five straight games, including 21 against Dallas.
Most importantly for a Nets team searching for offense, Morrow stepped up his aggressiveness after Devin Harris left with a shoulder injury. His 17 shots from the floor are the second most he has attempted as a Net.
No one is expecting him to average over 20 points a night, but he will need to keep firing with or without Harris on the floor.
2. 24-8 Third Quarter Run
The Nets have played some ugly basketball this season but rarely do they roll over and mail in a game. Almost every night you will see a big time run from New Jersey and the one against Dallas was one of the most impressive.
Five different players scored for the Nets during the third quarter run that cut the Mavs 21 point lead all the way down to five. Those are the stretches that give Johnson and the rest of the Nets brain trust confidence that there's enough talent currently on the roster to get out of the cellar.
3. 80% Free Throw Shooting
No one said the silver lining would be made up of the sexiest stats. When you go nearly two weeks without a victory these are the type of things you hold onto and hope to stick with when things start to turn around.
Teams that don't beat themselves can play with anyone and New Jersey is the 11th best free throw shooting team in the league. If they can sustain any sort of aggressiveness on offense, the Nets will start winning close games.
Dallas, TX (Sports Network) - Dirk Nowitzki scored 21 points with 10 rebounds and the Mavericks extended their winning streak to 11 games with a 102-89 victory over the New Jersey Nets, spoiling Avery Johnson's return to Dallas.
"Give credit to the defense," said Butler. "That's something we've honed since training camp."
Johnson spent three-plus seasons in Dallas, compiling an impressive regular season record but a pedestrian mark in the postseason, and was fired after the Mavs were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs two straight years.
"I was pretty emotional," said Johnson, who returned to coach against the Mavs in Dallas for the first time and saw his Nets stumble early.
Not only did they end the first quarter in a 30-19 hole, they also lost starting guard Devin Harris to a shoulder injury.
Johnson said Harris' shoulder is "sore."
"He took a hard fall," he said. "It's not like he tweaked something, that is a hard fall. So, we just have to hope and pray that he stays healthy because he means a lot to our basketball team."
The Mavericks, riding a wave of wins since their loss three weeks ago to Chicago, upped their lead to 55-40 by halftime behind 14 points from Marion and 13 from Butler. Dallas led by as many as 18 points in the half.
Dallas extended its lead to 21 points with a 7-1 run early in the third quarter. Butler capped the surge with a 20-foot jumper to make it 62-41.
The Nets cut their deficit all the way to five near the end of the quarter, but it was back to 10 at 79-69 entering the fourth.
Kris Humphries pulled New Jersey within eight on a dunk to open the final quarter, but the Nets never got closer than that.
New Jersey shot 42 percent for the game, while Dallas shot 55 percent...The Mavs outscored the Nets on the fastbreak 27-15...Not only has New Jersey lost six in a row, it has dropped 11 of its last 13.
On the heels of Damion James being a rare bright spot in the Nets 116-101 loss the Atlanta Hawks, head coach Avery Johnson announced Thursday that the rookie would move into the starting lineup in place of Travis Outlaw.
He understands what the team loses with the switch, but that the benefits are clear -- and necessary.
"Obviously James doesn't shoot as well as Outlaw, but we love his energy. And hopefully, this will get Outlaw back to some of his familiar surroundings coming off the bench.''
Flipping Outlaw and James likely isn't the only change as he looks to shake up a Nets team that has lost 5 in a row and 9 of 10.
"We may go through several starting lineups this year,'' he said. "At some point, (rookie Derrick) Favors will be starting. My goal was to start him at the 41st game and it's probably going to be a whole lot sooner than that."
Johnson, the Mavs' former coach, will be making his return to Dallas tonight as the Nets try and halt a 10-game losing streak at American Airlines Center. He spent three-plus seasons mentoring Dallas, compiling an impressive 194-70 regular season record, along with a more pedestrian 23-24 mark in the postseason.
Johnson piloted the Mavericks to the NBA finals in 2006 where they lost to the Miami Heat and was then fired after the team was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs during the following two seasons.
"It's going to be tough," Dallas guard Jason Terry told the Mavericks' website about facing his former coach. "But then, when the lights are on and we tip it off, it's time to go to work. It will be fun, but it's going to be a long night."
Most recently the Mavs won the opener of the residency on Tuesday when Dirk Nowitzki scored a game-high 25 points, and Dallas held off Golden State down the stretch to notch a 105-100 win, their 10th straight overall.
Terry added 20 points for the Mavericks, who last lost on November 19 and have recorded their first 10-game run since ripping off 13 straight from February 17-March 10, 2010.
"No question these guys are a bitter rival, and any time we play against the Warriors it's going to be a tough game," Terry said. "Tonight, we did what we had to do to come out with the win."
Caron Butler contributed with 19 points, while Ian Mahinmi had his first career double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds for Dallas, which has defeated Golden State four straight times. Mahinmi played a career-high 21 minutes because starting center Tyson Chandler was down with a stomach bug.
The Mavs, who are 9-3 in Big D, will finish their residency with games against Utah, Milwaukee, Portland and Phoenix.
The Nets, meanwhile, have been headed in the opposite direction losing for the fifth straight time on Tuesday in Atlanta when Josh Smith scored a season-high 34 points in the Hawks' 116-101 victory over New Jersey at Philips Arena.
Brook Lopez had 24 points to lead the slumping Nets, who have dropped 10 of their last 12 games overall and are now an Eastern Conference-worst 6-16 on the year. Devin Harris added 18 points and 13 assists in the loss.
"It was another game where we sustained our effort," Lopez said. "We came out with good effort, sustained it for the most part except for a little second quarter lull... We ended the half poorly. Obviously, that hurt us. We were playing catch up the entire game."