Nets defense historically bad in loss to Minnesota Timberwolves

Timberwolves Shot Chart

This is what bad defense looks like, in shot chart form.

The Brooklyn Nets produced one of the worst defensive performances in NBA history Saturday night, losing to the Minnesota Timberwolves (now 20-43) by a score of 132-114, and falling to 18-45 on the season.

While the points themselves don’t necessarily scream “one of the worst performances ever!”, it’s the efficiency that puts this one over the top. As a team, the Timberwolves hit 132 points on just 76 shots and 22 free throws, shooting 68.4 percent from the field (52-76), 55.6 percent from three-point range (10-18), and 81.8 percent from the stripe (18-22).

That meant the Nets’ defensive performance was historically bad from three perspectives:

  • They allowed an effective field goal percentage (which is weighted to value three-pointers) of 75 percent, tied for the fourth-worst in NBA history.
  • They allowed a true shooting percentage (which includes threes and free throws) of 77 percent, which ranks as the third-worst in NBA history.
  • They allowed a basic field goal percentage of 68.4 percent, ninth-worst in NBA history and third-worst in Nets franchise history.

(Note: these numbers are since 1983-84, which is the furthest back Basketball-Reference has data.)

It wasn’t pretty. Future Rookie of the Year Karl-Anthony Towns dominated the inside, hitting 28 points on 14-18 shooting, with 16 points alone in the restricted area. The Timberwolves’ perimeter shooting, which currently ranks last in the NBA at 5.1 three-pointers per game, got multiple three-pointers from Zach Lavine (3), Andrew Wiggins (2), Tyus Jones (2), and even noted non-shooter Ricky Rubio (2).

The Timberwolves led wire-to-wire over the Nets, who were playing without Brook Lopez & Thaddeus Young, and outside of a brief run by the Nets early in the fourth quarter, never looked back.

It wasn’t all bad news for the Nets, and Minnesota’s defense gave them a few highlights of their own. With Lopez & Young out, four Nets set career-highs in scoring: the hot-shooting Markel Brown (23 points), Sean Kilpatrick (19), Thomas Robinson (18) and Willie Reed (14). Shane Larkin added 18 points of his own, Robinson also added 17 rebounds, and Reed provided some nice energy in the paint.

The obvious lesson here: with Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young out, it’s going to destroy the Nets’ chances of winning games. Maybe a not-so-obvious lesson: the team’s offense was still able to perform against a bad Timberwolves defense, but their defense wasn’t able to keep up, inside or out.

The Nets come home to Brooklyn to practice again, but have two more games left on the road before playing at Barclays Center again: they’ll face Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors Tuesday, and the tanking Philadelphia 76ers on Friday.

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