Thoughts on the Game: Nets Defense is Offensive

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You would think 107 points on 50 percent shooting for the Nets would be a landmark game, but teams in the NBA still need to play defense if they expect to win games – something the Nets have failed to do 3 games running, looking about as lackadaisical against the Atlanta Hawks last night as they did earlier in the week against the Golden State Warriors and the Indiana Pacers.

The Nets gave up 130 points to the Hawks who had seven players scoring in double-figures, and were led by Maurice Evans (22 points, 9 rebounds) and Joe Johnson (21 points, 10 assists). Outside of the first quarter where the Nets were outscored 31-29, this one was never really close. Atlanta closed the first half with a 19-5 run, putting them up 12, and never looked back from there, leading by as many as 26 points in the second half.

What was so strange about this game was how the Nets seemed to be even with the Hawks in many key categories. The Hawks shot 53.3 percent to 50.6 percent for the Nets; they had 52 points in the paint and  the Nets had 46; 25 fast break points compared to 23 for the Net;, and 12 turnovers for the Hawks with 13 for the Nets.

Where the Nets went horribly wrong was on the glass, getting outrebounded 51-38. The Hawks also got to the line 10 more times (shooting 21-29) and mad 6 more three pointers (11-17 compared with 5-10 for the Nets). That’s one way a team outscores you by 23 points.

The Nets frontcourt combo of Trenton Hassell (13 points 6-6 shooting) and Josh Boone (8 points, 5 rebounds) was overmatched defensively against Atlanta’s Evans and Josh Smith (16 points, 8 rebounds), and the reserves didn’t fare much better with Eduardo Najera looking rusty on defense in his return to action and Bobby Simmons giving another blase performance with 7 points on 3-9 shooting. The only frontcourt member who looked like he had a clue on defense was Sean Williams, who played 7+ minutes of garbage time at the end of the game and registered 3 blocks and no personal fouls.

Devin Harris quietly put together one of his best games of the season, finishing with a double-double of 23 points and 10 assists, shooting 9-18 from the field. Yet he did most of his damage in the second half (15 points) when the Nets were already out of the game. Outside of the fourth quarter against Chicago on Tuesday night where he hit a number of big shots down the stretch, I can’t honestly think of a game where Devin Harris has carried his teammates for all four quarters.

A bright spot for the second game in a row was Terrence Williams. Apparently bullying reporters and causing team turmoil must be good for the rookie’s game, because he scored 18 points, and grabbed 7 rebounds while shooting 8-14 from the field. He still looks way too uncontrolled and wild at points – at the 10:01 point he forced a layup off the fast break and ended up with nothing – but he is definitely making a visible effort to take the ball to the hoop more, only shooting 5 jumpers outside of 15-feet, and making two of them, including a trey near the end of the second, that cut the Hawks lead to 8 before Atlanta was able to fire off 4 quick points to end the half.

Some final thoughts after the jump.

  • Six games in and Kiki Vandeweghe is already making some of the same mistakes that plagued the man he fired, Lawrence Frank. Last night, Kiki clearly stuck with Rafer Alston way too long. Alston was never able to find his shot in the first half, yet still logged 23 minutes, shooting 0-8 for the game with 3 turnovers and 3 assists. Like Frank, Kiki seems insistent on going with a smaller lineup, even if the combination of players isn’t paying dividends. Devo and Rafer are yet to form any kind of chemistry with each other when they play at the same time, so why keep trying to force it, even if Keyon Dooling isn’t available?
  • Courtney Lee (13 points) had a nice jump shot going for himself early in the game, and finished 4-7 from beyond 15-feet. However, he only played about 20 seconds in the fourth quarter. Lee looked a little dinged up when he banged his knee in the second quarter, so hopefully Kiki was just giving him a rest during the blowout and there isn’t another injury to get worried about.
  • Why is it always feast or famine for Brook Lopez? Friday, he needed 23 shots to score 25 points. Last night, he only got 12 shots (7 in the first half) and he finished with 19 points. He only took two shots outside of the paint (both makes, one from 19-feet and one from 13-feet), but the Nets are just not feeding him in the post enough, and the pick and roll game, outside of one lousy alley-oop pass from Devin Harris that sailed over Brook’s head, has been non-existant.
  • A stat that’s getting lost in this miserable season for the Nets is their terrible rebounding rate. They’re currently grabbing only 47.3 percent of all potential rebounds, according to ESPN’s John Hollinger, good for 28th in the league. Last night was no different as the Hawks had already grabbed 9 offensive boards at the end of the first half.
  • It’s a shame that Josh Boone has no offensive ability and is looking more and more like a liability guarding opposing PFs, because he’s actually evolving into a nice passer.  In the third quarter, Boone grabbed the lead pass on the fast break and made a nice dish to Trenton Hassell for two points.
  • On a final note, I hope I never have to listen to Michael Kay on a Nets broadcast again. For such a bad team with a cheap owner, the Nets actually have a nice collection of analysts, play-by-play guys in Ian Eagle, Marv Albert and Mike Fratello. Adding Kay and his lack of insight to the booth took one of the last things that’s been enjoyable about this Nets season and ruined it.