Aggression was the word of the day after the team’s Game 5 loss, bemoaned as an issue until their fourth-quarter comeback by all of their major players.
“They’re definitely the aggressor,” Deron Williams said at his locker.
“I thought we didn’t get aggressive, I thought we got stagnant, we got away from just being aggressive, and we’ve got to continue to be aggressive for four quarters, … I think everyone has to be aggressive at this point,” Kevin Garnett agreed (or aggressed?).
Aggression is a loose, sneaky term in basketball circles: it could mean any number of things, and could mean nothing at all. It’s often a catch-all for “we didn’t make as many shots as they did.”
Paul Pierce gave a little more insight. He viewed aggression as the key to their fourth-quarter comeback, one that happened while he sat on the bench. “I thought we played with aggression in the fourth quarter,” he theorized, with his usual head-bopping, conversational style. “I thought we settled a lot in the second and third quarter for a lot of jumpers, I thought we didn’t make the extra passes, but then when we started putting the ball on the ground, taking it to the hole, making the extra passes, we found ourselves with wide open shots and we found ourselves getting easy layups.”
They got to the line as many times in the fourth quarter (15) as they did in the first three combined, adding 11 field goal attempts from within five feet in the explosive 44-point quarter. They’ve done an excellent job of converting shots once they’ve gotten into the paint throughout the series, shooting a playoffs-best 67.5 percent on shots within 5 feet. But their 23.4 attempts per game rank ahead of only the eighth-seed Atlanta Hawks.
Part of that is because the Nets don’t have anyone to match Jonas Valanciunas’s size inside. The threat of Garnett’s jumper hasn’t drawn Valanciunas far enough out of the paint, and his size has been a key deterrent for the Nets inside. When they’ve gotten him in foul trouble, they’ve taken advantage. The Nets will have to do that again.