The Brooklyn Nets had a real shot at beating the undefeated Indiana Pacers Saturday night, playing an effective offensive gameplan with their starters in the lineup, but a few costly errors swung the game in Indiana's favor.
First, the good. Before last night's game I highlighted Indiana's sole defensive weakness: dropping too far into the paint off the ball and giving up wide open threes, usually on the weak side. Opponents heading into last night's game shot 41.3% from three-point range on spot-up threes against the Pacers, a great percentage. I noted that the amount of three-pointers the Nets could get off these looks could make the difference.
Sure enough, the Nets were effective shooting the ball, but didn't get the number they needed. The Nets made eight three-pointers in total last night, and out of seven attempts at spot-up threes last night, they hit four:
One thing you may notice from that video: all four makes came with the starting five in the game.
The starting five looked crisp offensively, but that comes with two caveats. First, if the bench created a few of those looks (and Jason Terry hits on some of his), we could be writing a different recap.
Second, the problem for the starting five wasn't offense. In 17 minutes, they shot 48% from the field and 63% on three-pointers. The team as a whole scored 91 points on 91 possessions against a Pacers defense that has allowed fewer than 80 points per 91 possessions to start the season. But defensively, the Nets suffer from the exact same weakness as Indiana, and the undefeated Pacers just created more out of the set.
Though Brooklyn wasn't as bad giving up the three, their commitment to the restricted area meant they gave up open midrange jumpers galore, particularly to David West and Lance Stephenson.
"We watched some tape on these guys and we scouted them pretty well," West said in the locker room about the mid-range looks he was getting. "They're basically trying to bring the defense that (Paul) Pierce and (Kevin) Garnett played in Boston here. We know they are going to try and be overly aggressive on the ball, and we knew we had to be precise with our movements and moving the basketball.”
The Pacers shot a scorching 64.7% in spot-up attempts, scoring 28 points on 21 spot-up possessions, most notably three open midrange jumpers to West and three more open shots to Lance Stephenson, including one three. Conversely, the Nets only scored 16 points out of spot-up plays. In a five-point game at home, there's your difference.