Nash Could Be Fall Guy if Nets Go Down

BY LESLIE MONTEIRO

 (Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

No one expected this.

The Nets are down 2-0 against the Boston Celtics in their NBA playoff series. They have been outplayed and outcoached by the other team. Kevin Durant stunk in both games.

The Nets poo-pooed their Game 1 loss by citing Durant’s bad game and he would bounce back. They couldn’t explain what went wrong in Game 2 after Kyrie Irving and Durant combined to shoot 8-for-30 overall as the Nets melted down in the fourth quarter to take a 114-107 loss.

When a team is favored to win the series and not getting it done so far, everyone plays the blame game. It comes with the territory of pro sports.

Blaming Durant is simple. Yes, he shot 37 percent in the series so far (13-for-41) and committed 12 turnovers (six apiece in each game). There’s no question if he keeps playing like this, the Nets will lose this series.

But we should dig deeper into why the Nets are in this position. Why is Durant struggling? Why are the other role players doing nothing? Why is the offense so iso-oriented? Where is the attention to detail?  Why has Celtics head coach and former Nets assistant coach Ime Udoka been playing chess while Nets head coach Steve Nash is playing checkers in this coaching matchup?

The last question can coincide with other questions. It is all connected. This is about Nash.

He should be in the spotlight. That’s the way it goes when a team with championship aspirations is underachieving. Everything is fair in love and war. 

Durant’s shooting struggles should have made Nash run this offense differently. For one thing, the Nets head coach needs to have his star posting up or attacking to the basket rather than shooting airballs. Second of all, why is the offense tailored around Durant? It has become predictable. Role players such as Seth Curry, Patty Mills, Nic Claxton and Andre Drummond have been nonexistent, especially in crunch time. A great coach tends to be creative in running an offense.

Nash played for Mike D’Antoni as the star of the Phoenix Suns’ Seven Seconds or Less offense. He had everyone involved on offense as the Suns point guard. One would think he would apply this to his coaching by getting everyone involved rather than just have Durant and Irving let it rip. This is where he needs to be creative in using other guys when his stars are struggling on offense.

Anyone can coach in the NBA with stars on the roster. After all, in the NBA, it’s more about the Jimmies and Joes than Xs and Os. But what makes a great coach stand out is making adjustments on the fly and being creative in running plays. So far that has not been the case. It just seems like Nash’s offense is to hand the ball to Irving and Durant. It sounds great, but when they struggled as they did in Game 2, then it becomes a problem. 

It can be risky. Irving and Durant should figure it out when the series shifts to Barclays Center. They will feed off a friendly crowd. However, it would be wise to get role players involved since they always feed off the home crowd and play well.

It probably would be helpful if Nash can use Durant or Irving as a decoy to get role players started.

Either way, the offense can be much better than it showed. It has to be, especially if the series goes back to Boston. That’s on the head coach to figure it out.

The Nets have no room for error. They used up their mulligans. Maybe giving the ball to Durant and Irving will pay off in the end.

But if the Nets manage to lose this series to the Celtics, someone is going to pay.

It sure isn’t going to be Durant. Maybe Irving since he is a free agent and the Nets may have had enough of his nonsense. It’s definitely going to be Nash. It has to be. Nets owner Joe Tsai did not pay the luxury tax to disappoint for the second straight year, especially after losing in the first round.

When a coach boasts two future Hall of Famers on his roster, he needs to be standing in the winner’s circle as the last team standing.  A second straight season of underachieving in the playoffs isn’t going to cut it anymore. It shouldn’t be, either, especially in a market like New York.

For the Nets to be relevant in this city, they can’t be underachieving and expect to have a following. It doesn’t work that way.

When Nash offered this excuse about having his team featuring new players and making adjustments on the fly after a Game 2 loss, he sounds like a head coach that has no answers. This is not what Tsai wants to hear.

Such reasoning and poor postseason results get a head coach fired.

Nash would be wise to figure it out or deal with the consequences.

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