When tired legs lead to short jump shots, or the law of averages dictates that good shots are destined to rim out, good teams find a way to win. Good teams clamp down on the defensive end, manufacture easy points in transition or the free throw line, or work the boards for second chance points.
The Chicago Bulls, on the tail end of a 14-day road trip, found a way to win in Barclays Center. Despite some sluggish play leading to 19 turnovers, the Bulls held the Nets to 82 points, scored 27 fast-break points, hoisted ten more free throws than the home team, and cleaned up the boards leading to a 16-rebound differential.
The Chicago Bulls are a good team.
The Nets, on the other hand, shot 14% from the three-point line, seeing good looks from good shooters rim out. When the shots do not fall, there is very little else the Nets can do to respond -– and that’s largely been the story of the team’s disappointing start.
Make no mistake, the Nets can shoot. The team’s 55.0 true shooting percentage, that takes into account three-point and free throw shooting, ranks 11th in the league – ahead of the noted marksmen in Portland and only a few percentage points behind the world champion San Antonio Spurs.
But, on the nights like tonight, when the shots don’t fall, there is little else the team can do. In this early season, they’re not very good at much else.
It’s tough to sustain a long run when your team plays below-average defense; the Nets defensive rating of 107.5 falls below the league average of 107.1, and that showed tonight on lapses that led to easy cuts and desperation fouls.
The Nets claim superior size at nearly every position, yet the team is tied for 18th in rebounding rate, leading to extended possessions on the defensive end and few opportunities for second-chance points. On a night when the Nets field goal percentage dipped below 40, the team only secured 7 offensive rebounds on 54 missed shots.
While the Nets size fails to reflect in its rebounding numbers, it certainly manifests itself when it comes to fast break opportunities. The larger Nets lack the foot speed to run the break, scoring a paltry 10.1 points per game in the open court, good enough for 21st in the league.
A 19-point differential in fast break points — Bulls 27, Nets 8 — shows in the final score. When the Nets put together a string of baskets, opponents, like Rose or Butler tonight, often answer off a long rebound, quickly quelling a run.
The Nets shoot 80 percent from the charity stripe, but only get 22 attempts per game, 10 less attempts than the league-leading Kings and five less attempts less than tonight’s victorious Bulls. A serious free throw percentage discrepancy kept the Bulls lead safe, until a third-quarter explosion put the game away for good.
Good teams find a way to score when little goes right, and the numbers in tonight’s game, and the sample size in this early season, tell us that right now: the Nets are not a very good team.