For the Nets to snap this recent three game skid, they are going to need to do it with a much more spirited defensive effort. In the Nets last loss, a 105-86 to the Pacers, there was certainly a number of defensive mistakes that the Pacers took advantage of. Let's take a closer look at some of the different areas in which the Nets had defensive lapses.
After the Pacers loss, a lot was made of the team's slow start being the cause of their falling behind early. The Nets opened the game showing Indiana a zone defense. While zones are meant to be every bit as active as man to man, anyone that has ever played basketball before knows, playing a zone defense can sometimes cause a team to take a "break" defensively and this very well could have been a contributing factor to the lethargic start. In the Nets zone, the Pacers did a great job of exposing the most vulnerable part of any zone, the middle, and they did so a lot either by dribble or by pass.
Here, the Nets allow talented Mike Dunleavy Jr. a catch directly in the middle of their zone. Dunleavy gets the attention of four of the Nets defenders, and slips a pass underneath to Roy Hibbert who was sneaking in along the baseline.
Now after Hibbert catches, he attempts a dunk and is contested well by Derrick Favors. What happens after is a problem and part of the slow start Avery Johnson was talking about.
Favors causes Hibbert to miss, but as you can see, circled in red are three of our players are in the paint watching. Neither Devin Harris, Anthony Morrow or Brook Lopez even notice Indiana's Josh McRoberts, who is in the middle of all them, flying in for the offensive put back dunk. Watching the clip below play in live motion, the lack of a box out is more apparent. In the second clip, you'll see Ben Uzoh abandon the ball and give Darren Collison an uncontested three pointer.
ESPN's own NBA analyst David Thorpe says that NBA defenses are more about team defense than individual on the ball defenders. His thought is that players in the NBA are just too good to be covered by player, and that ultimately there's always going to be some sort of help and recover rotation.
In this game, the Nets had plenty of low quality rotations leading to either late close outs or out of control close outs, which led to Pacers points. We're going to take a look at one of these.
Here you see Devin Harris, doubling down on Roy Hibbert as he began to make his move. Kris Humphries, Quinton Ross and Anthony Morrow of the Nets are on the weak side and should typically "zone up" the backside as the double team occurrs. It seems as though Humphries is slightly out of position and Ross is staying attached to his man too much. Positioning themselves at the yellow x's would have given the Nets a better chance at rotating back out of the double team and out on shooters. What ends up happening, as you'll see in the clip, is the out of position Humphries is now forced to make a long close out on Darren Collinson who simply goes by Humphries with a mere head fake. He gets deep into the lane and makes an easy jumper for two. Here's the clip:
Finally, you can look at the x's and o's all you want, but you need great individual effort and execution to make anything in the NBA work. On this day, the Nets as individuals were just not bringing it and it showed. Shown is one of the most glaring examples of just bad individual defense. Josh McRoberts of the Pacers gets a catch just outside of his own three point line.
Favors, who is covering McRoberts, slouches way off him. Now I'm certainly not going to speculate as to what Avery Johnson's defensive strategy was when McRoberts has the ball. McRoberts who is not known as a "shooter" in this league, is actually shooting a respectable 36% on 52 attempts. He is shown way to much disrespect from Favors and to make matters worse, Favors even helps on an entry pass McRoberts faked at, putting himself even further from the ball. McRoberts takes all the space he is given (and as you see in the picture, he was given a lot) and simply nails a three pointer.
The Nets need to really get back their defensive intensity and hopefully they have worked out some of the failed assignments in their rotations. Looking forward to next game.