The Brooklyn Nets have big holes opponents can exploit. (AP)
On July 13, 2012, The Brooklyn Nets introduced "Brooklyn's Backcourt" at a lavish press conference, promising that good days were ahead for the brand-new Brooklyn Nets franchise thanks to the re-signing of Deron Williams and acquisition by trade of six-time All-Star Joe Johnson. One year and five days later, the Nets held a press conference introducing some more major pieces to their fold, including Hall of Fame forward Paul Pierce. With those three backcourt stars flanking Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez in the frontcourt, the Nets had visions of championship contention.
The Brooklyn Nets lost a close game to the Washington Wizards last night, despite shooting better from the field. They lost because gave up 19 offensive rebounds, which led to 14 more shot attempts and 23 second-chance points. The Nets recognized a lot of "back-taps" -- rebounds that were tapped out by Marcin Gortat to their guards -- but also bemoaned their poor rotations.
"They were non-traditional in a lot of the things they did," Kevin Garnett explained after the game. "What I mean by that is that usually a big rolls up (on the pick-and-roll) and everybody can rotate easily. They didn't do that tonight. They crashed three to four guys each time, they were able to get offensive rebounds, and offensive rebounds became second shots."
The Wizards are an unorthodox team, and it caught the Nets off guard when trying to get to their spots. But it must have only felt like three to four guys crashing each time, because Trevor Booker got enough offensive rebounds for three men alone. It wasn't just him, either:
As you'll see in the above examples, the Wizards only had two players crashing the glass on most plays, but that second player was usually uncontested. The Nets often had to bring that second player's defender in help defense to contest the first look, and no one rotated down to contest the Wizards on the rebound.
The Nets have recently talked about their simplified schemes making things easier defensively, and that most of it relies on communication and getting to their spots. But whatever their scheme was Wednesday night, it didn't end well for them on the glass.
Brook Lopez's defense has taken major early strides. (AP)
Lopez's offensive dominance is nothing new. He leads the league in scoring off cuts, at an astonishing 1.44 points per possession. Yawn. He's shooting 64% from the field in the post, and leading the league with 1.29 points per post-up. What else is new? He's leading the Nets in scoring, field goal percentage, player efficiency rating, win shares per 48 minutes, and usage. Barely worth a tweet.
But it isn't Lopez's complete and utter dominance of the offensive paint that's surprising this season; it's his dominance of the other side of the ball that's made the biggest impact.
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Garnett is at the center of Brooklyn's game-long weariness. (AP)
During the preseason, Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Garnett talked about his defensive goals for the Nets in 2013-14.
"So top-five is obviously something -- (Jason Kidd) said top-10, I wouldn't give us that. We're gonna have to be one of the top three teams in defense coming out and giving a valid effort every night to be something in this league."
Unfortunately, his predictions are a bit off thus far.... MORE →
This may look like just another play: Lance Stephenson misses a shot, and the Nets corral the rebound. But what's involved in this play defensively is so much more, and it's one of the major changes the Nets have made heading into this season.
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Can the Brooklyn Nets crack the Indiana Pacers' top-flight defense? Here's one way it could work. (AP)
The Indiana Pacers boast, without question, the league's top defense. They led the league in defensive ratingl last season, kept all their major pieces, and in their first six games -- all wins -- they've allowed a ridiculous 87.5 points per 100 possessions, by far the best in the league. Their anchor, Roy Hibbert, blocks a league-leading 4.7 shots per game, and the team hasn't allowed more than 91 points to any opponent this season.
But, like any team in the NBA, they're not perfect. They've got very small, exploitable cracks in their armor, and there's one that the Nets have the ability to exploit.
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Ever since Jason Kidd was hired as the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets on June 12th, his focus has been on defense. As he's stated multiple times; you cannot achieve success in the playoffs without defense. Last season, the Nets ranked 18th overall in defensive efficiency despite former head coach Avery Johnson's request that his team rank in the top 10.
The Nets had neither the personnel nor the proper schemes to be a top 10 defense last season, and the Nets did their diligence. GM Billy King acquired two of the best defenders in the NBA in Kevin Garnett & Andrei Kirilenko, and Kidd pushed for Lawrence Frank, one of the best defensive minds in the NBA, as his de facto defensive coordinator.
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Jason Kidd looks on during Nets-Celtics Tuesday night. (AP)
It's no secret that the Brooklyn Nets made the trade for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry in July with championship aspirations in mind. The Nets aren't looking towards the future; the roster is a group of veterans is "All In" to win now, as in this year. But if you're looking to win now, why entrust a first-time head coach with your aging roster, one who has a steep learning curve as he navigates the ins and outs of coaching?
Except Jason Kidd isn't like your average first-time coach.... MORE →
It didn't take long to hear Kevin Garnett's voice.
Brooklyn Nets (& Duke) media walked into the Michael W. Krzyzewski Center, the week-long home of the new-look Brooklyn Nets, and Garnett was already getting on his teammates. "Oh, you're cheating the drill!" Garnett yelled as he got back into line. "You cheat the drill, you cheat yourself!"
Last season seems like a distant memory.... MORE →
Much of the Nets' breakdown in game two was caused by a spirited Bulls’ defense and an increase in minutes for maniacally-motored Joakim Noah. But the Nets played in a way almost perfectly suited to fail against the Bulls defense.
Let’s breakdown where the Nets went wrong.
An imaginary line, drawn down the center of the court from one rim is called the “help line” and it splits the court into two sides: the side with the ball and the side without. The Tom Thibodeau-led Bulls defense is predicated on flooding the ball side with their four help defenders in the paint, which takes away driving lanes. The defender guarding the ball tries to force the ball handler to dribble into a numbers-down situation, where two or more Bulls defenders can guard the person with the ball.
A key antidote to this smothering defensive style is something the Nets lacked in game two, ball movement. Stagnation with the ball on the perimeter allowed the Bulls to load up their defensive efforts and make the Nets offense become very predictable. This static offense came to a noticeable head in the Nets’ two for 19, 11 point third quarter.
Any time an offense can get the ball to cross over the help line either via pass or dribble, it causes all five defensive players to shift and thus, opens up driving lanes, causes missed rotations and other opportunities for offenses to attack.
Swinging the ball from side to side is important for any basketball offense, but even more so against these modern day NBA defenses that load up on the ballside, like the Chicago Bulls.
The Nets used a stationary offense in the game-deciding third quarter. Watch the clips below from six Nets possessions in the third quarter and pay particular attention to how many passes are made each possession and how many sides of the court the Nets hit (how many times the ball crosses the help line).
In each of these clips you’ll see a trend: not much passing, the ball sticking to one side of the court, late shot clock situations and finally a bad shot.
Here's four potential fixes:
Put more shooters on the court. For those watching the TNT telecast you had to have heard Steve Kerr remarking how the Nets are playing “three on five” offensively when both Gerald Wallace and Reggie Evans are on the court, which is true to a certain extent. Neither of those players are threats to score from deep and thus allow the Bulls defenders guarding them to sag further into the paint, clogging things up for the Nets even more. Playing shooters like C.J. Watson, Jerry Stackhouse, Keith Bogans or perhaps even Mirza Teletovic more, may give the Nets more room to operate or make the Bulls pay for stacking their defense to one side.
More play design. Compare the below play with the slogfest of plays that was shown above.
Both of these plays came from the third quarter, but you can see the difference in both ball movement and man movement in these sets. You will also notice the improved shot quality the Nets got as a result.
More transition.As I wrote a few weeks ago, the Nets are facing a set and ready Bulls defense far too often. Looking for more opportunities to run off misses and makes will help the Nets create easier opportunities.
Make the most of these off days. With two days off since game two, the Nets have ample time to iron out any offensive issues. It’s now up to P.J. Carlesimo and the rest of the of the Nets’ coaching staff to highlight examples through film and emphasize ball movement in practice -- so that come game time the players will ping the ball around the court more.
Okay, so much for the easy schedule... or is it? The Indiana Pacers travel to Brooklyn to take on the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center today at 6 P.M. EST. The 23-14 Pacers boast the best record in the Central Division and the third-best record in the Eastern Conference, just ahead of the 21-15 Nets.
But tonight's game is a bit more of a crapshoot, with both teams dealing with various injuries. For the Nets, Gerald Wallace is out with bruised ribs, Deron Williams is questionable with a right quad contusion, Kris Humphries is a game-time decision with a sore ankle, and Mirza Teletovic & Joe Johnson are both probable with various illnesses. The Pacers' injury list is much shorter but still devastating: they will likely be without starting small forward & both-ends-of-the-floor fulcrum Paul George, who's been battling the flu.
To help us understand just what's going on out in Indiana, I'm joined by the always-excellent Jared Wade. Jared is the managing editor of Eight Points, Nine Seconds, an Indiana Pacers blog, ESPN TrueHoop Affiliate, and go-to site for all things Pacers.
Devin: There's a report that Paul George may not play after getting the flu. How important is he to the Pacers' success, and how does your confidence change with him in or out?