Paint protection “point of pride” for Plumlee, Nets

Jared Sullinger rips a rebound from Mason Plumlee. (AP)
Jared Sullinger rips a rebound from Mason Plumlee. (AP)

The Nets want Game 1 to be a forgotten aberration.

After allowing 62 points in the paint against the Boston Celtics to kick off the season in a 121-105 loss, the highest number in the league thus far and over 20 points above their season average last year, the Nets know their effort was unacceptable.

“Not only (is it a) point of pride, if we have any expectation of winning, we can’t give up — I think it was over 60 points in the paint,” Mason Plumlee, who started at center and played just 11 minutes with foul trouble, affirmed. “Can’t happen.”

Abused by Boston’s innovative offense, which spread the floor and required big men Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger to switch between pick-and-pop offense and setting a decoy “slip screen” before diving towards the basket, Nets coach Lionel Hollins emphasized screen recognition moving forward. “Sometimes there are screens set, they’re slip-in screens, and we’re still showing, and our man is in the basket and we try to get back and they make passes to them for layups.”

Here’s one example of that:

Watch Kelly Olynyk on this play. He darts up to set a decoy screen for Rajon Rondo, but before he actually gets set to screen, slips towards the basket. Mason Plumlee, who presumably had been told to “show” (or step up) on the screen, takes himself completely out of the play by not reading the slip screen, setting up a 3-on-2 situation for the Celtics. Joe Johnson can only help to “touch” Olynyk, as he’s guarding a three-point shooter in Jeff Green, and Olynyk rolls for the easy layup.

Along with his inconsistent defense, Plumlee admitted he was out of position on a few occasions, which helped lead to his four quick fouls. “Just being out of position,” he said. “A couple of times, they showed me my fouls on film, I was over-helping a little too much and leaving my guy. Then I was rushing to get back, and picked up a couple like that. I’m not going to not foul, I just have to be smart with them.”

Hollins agreed.

“It just starts with being smart,” Hollins affirmed. “We got beat. In happens in every game, people get beat. You can’t compound getting beat by committing a foul.”

If Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger gave the Nets interior defense fits, they’ve got Halloween shivers about Detroit’s cast of big men, led first and foremost by 21-year-old phenom Andre Drummond. Drummond, an athletic beast that has drawn comparisons to a young Dwight Howard, dominated the Nets last season, averaging 17.5 points and 15.8 rebounds in their four matchups last season. “(He’s a) very strong, physical post player,” Plumlee acknowledged. “Great rebounder. That’s where they got us last year was on the offensive glass, so we have to rebound at a high level.”

Worse for Brooklyn, he showed off an improved post game in the Pistons’ debut performance against the Denver Nuggets, including one ridiculous jam (at around 30 seconds in the below video) over Timofey Mozgov that had to give Mozgov flashbacks to when he was tragically killed by Blake Griffin in a Knicks uniform.

The Nets head into tomorrow without their biggest man, All-Star center Brook Lopez, who will sit out for the second straight game after injuring his foot in preseason. Lopez is a poor rebounder, but Plumlee isn’t much better, and the Pistons out-rebounded the Nets by an average of 12.8 rebounds per game last season.

“It’s gonna be a huge challenge,” Joe Johnson admitted. “Detroit pretty much had their way with us last year, especially in the paint. So to give up 60-plus points against Boston in the paint, against a team that didn’t really post up, it’s going to be a tough game tomorrow.”