After the first few games of the season, I noted that while the Nets would need time to work through their defensive kinks, the pieces and framework for a successful pick-and-roll defensive scheme was in place. Brook Lopez’s predetermined rotations and increased effort level were both excellent signs, and while I held skepticism about the Nets becoming a top-10 defense this season, there was more to be optimistic about than I’d expected.
So much for that.
If you come to this site because you’re a Nets fan, the video above (compiled by video maven Cody Hart) will probably hurt. It’s a compilation of some of the worst moments from last night’s contest, when the Knicks ran the pick-and-roll with Tyson Chandler and all defensive hell broke loose.
The Knicks created so much out of this simple pick-and-roll play, a devastating two-man-that-becomes-five-man game that Brooklyn neither had the ability nor strategy to defend. Joe Johnson noted after the game that it felt akin to “picking your poison;” either you trap Chandler rolling to the rim and give up an open three-pointer, or let Chandler roll and give up the guaranteed deuce.
Since a picture is worth a thousand words, below are five thousand words from the above video, in key moments where the Nets made the defensive decision to stop the ball:
Last season, the Nets fell prey to something I called “tunnel vision defense” (shortened to TVD), in which every Nets player would seemingly stare down the ball without taking into account the movement from other players — even, in the case of Chandler, players directly impacting the path of the ballhandler.
Look above at those screenshots and at that video again. Other than the times when a guard is trailing Chandler, well behind him on his quest to dunk the Nets into oblivion, everyone’s watching the man with the ball. The 7-foot, loud, minimalist Chandler snuck his way past Brooklyn’s defense with ease.
After Wednesday night’s game, Coach Avery Johnson and Deron Williams both stressed that the Nets had a defensive system and strategy in place to defend New York’s offense, and that it broke down due to miscommunications and mistakes. That’s certainly true, but I can’t stress enough that while Brooklyn seemingly had no strategy (or lost strategy) to defend this play, it’s also one of the core’s of New York’s offensive success. They’re such good outside shooters, so able to space the floor around the paint, that the Nets can’t drop off their defensive assignment at the three-point line — and when they did, the Knicks made them pay with one of their 11 three-pointers.
Additionally, New York’s ball movement is so quick and crisp that once the Nets began trying to double Anthony when he caught the ball, he played the situation perfectly; drawing the defense far enough towards him to create open space for everybody else. The play starting at 0:38 in the Chandler oop video (and the fourth screenshot above) is a perfect example of that; Deron Williams rushes to double Anthony, Anthony kicks the ball immediately back to Knicks point guard Pablo Prigioni, and three seconds later Chandler slams the ball through the rim.
Pick your poison, indeed.