The adventures of Lewis and Clark probably had nothing on the Nets.
As the Nets limped home after a three-game West Coast excursion filled with enough peaks and valleys to make even the most avid mountain climber dizzy, a bevy of questions surrounds this team with great expectations.
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Injuries to four-fifths of the Nets' starting lineup on top of their already inconsistent play has to be a cause for concern. There rarely has been an extended period when they've had all their components healthy.
If there's a sliver of hope in all this, they believe, it's the way they ended the trip in California after that embarrassing start in Sacramento, when they got pasted by 21 points. They gutted out Friday's overtime win against the Suns, who were previously undefeated at home, and followed that up 24 hours later with a spirited effort in a 110-103 loss to the Clippers. They led at halftime and trailed by only three with 19.1 seconds left despite the absences of starters Deron Williams, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez.
Seeing the likes of Andray Blatche, rookie Mason Plumlee and even Tyshawn Taylor hold their own against the Clippers appeared to help repair the Nets' fragile psyche. Blatche and Plumlee netted 19 points each for the Nets (3-6), who might need that kind of effort again Monday night if their key players aren't available when they host the Trail Blazers (8-2).
"That's what we put this team together for," Alan Anderson said. "We have a really nice starting five, but no team can be good without a bench. So that's what we mainly talked about. We knew that we had a chance to win. Probably nobody else gave us a chance to win, but we knew we had a chance. Even though we didn't win, it was encouraging to see we were still in the game for pretty much 46 minutes.
"We are going to have to rest Paul, KG, D-Will, Brook, Joe [Johnson] sometimes also. So we've got to be ready on any given night and pull out some of these wins."
It's pretty much come to that for the high-priced Nets, whose depth will be seriously challenged through the rigors of the season. So in pulling out the positives, Blatche noticed one thing in particular with the way they played Saturday night: It was all about the T-word, something that hasn't always been prevalent during their rocky start.
"I felt like it showed a lot of trust out here," Blatche said. "A lot of guys started showing trust to one another. We played to the system. Guys like Tyshawn showed up great, definitely Mason, and saw the opportunity and came in and did a good job."
Plumlee's athleticism and ability to finish at the rim could be a nice component for the Nets, who had to be pleased with his 19-point performance against the Clippers and his fearless attitude going at Blake Griffin. He's proving he can be counted on to step in in a pinch, gaining the necessary confidence from his teammates.
"I think it's something that's going to be a big role on this team this year," Plumlee said. "Guys are going to sit out. We're going to rest guys and we can't just take 'L's every time . . . We have to win games. It's no secret we have an old team and we need to rest guys. We have to come up with wins and we are capable of that. It's not like they are asking us to do something we can't do."