The Brooklyn Nets dropped to 9-11 this season with a 12-point win at Indiana on Friday.
After an offense that allowed the Nets to take control early, Brooklyn's defense gave up 71 points on 21-of-40 shooting (52.5%) in the second half. The Nets are already ranked 20th in the year-end defensive ratings.
The lack of cohesion and discipline in various areas of Brooklyn's defense was troubling in Friday's loss. With that being said, let's get into the movie to break down the online battle to the end.
Attacking the defense point
Brooklyn's lack of point guard has been a glaring weakness this season. The team's defensive strength lies in the versatile frontcourt of Ben Simmons, Kevin Durant and Nic Claxton. However, the Nets defense outside of Simmons was very limited on the perimeter.
Joe Harris crushed the defense after opening the season strong. And Royce O'Neale, Brooklyn's touted power forward this offseason, has struggled to contain the speedy guard, as evidenced by a series of mistakes Friday.
While O'Neale gained a reputation as a superior linebacker at Utah, he was more comfortable defending a bigger body at the position. With few nets, Simmons, Durant and Claxton were often used to block low blocks and help with rebounds, forcing O'Neale to the perimeter where he wasn't even at his best.
Brooklyn's lack of size in the backfield also put a lot of reliance on O'Neale in the frontcourt. Kyrie Irving, Seth Curry and Patty Mills all struggled defensively, and O'Neal often had to mark the goalie who made the score faster. Mills and Curry's struggles against TJ McConnell on Friday showed what they lack defensively.
The return of Yuta Watanabe will help with perimeter safety. The 28-year-old was one of Brooklyn's best defenders before missing the team's last three games with a hamstring injury. Edmond Sumner provides another middleweight quarterback. However, the guard has seen his minutes drastically cut due to a messy three-point battle on the floor with Simmons and/or Nic Claxton.
There is no clear-cut Brooklyn perimeter defense on the current roster. And until the Nets find answers, they will continue to fight to close out the game.
Miscommunication in the middle of the trial
In addition to the lack of offensive points, Brooklyn has struggled to get around the screen in midfield moves. Because of this, networks often fail in trading schemes, leading to constant disagreements and second chance opportunities. Brooklyn ranks last in defensive rebounding percentage on the season.
These difficult switching schemes also often lead to communication problems. The damage done defensively in Brooklyn's round on Friday was staggering. Here, the Nets flipped the lid on two high screens, eyes wide to the rim.
Brooklyn's lack of communication through off-ball screens was detrimental in the loss. Here, the Nets went for an open layup, not on the same page on a pair of back screens.
Indiana frequently recruited Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield and Myles Turner in three-man action on Fridays, forcing Brooklyn to opt for multiple screens. Here, the Pacers pick off Spain and shut them out (with a back screen for P&R shots) before heading into another game featuring threes. The Nets couldn't get a set and gave up two open threes to Hieldi.
Kevin Durant said during practice that he didn't want the team to be too dependent on transfers, despite Brooklyn's better defensive ability.
"We have to take advantage, but not in a lazy way. Changing points or just changing passes, things like that," said Durant. "We want to pack up and focus on staying with our people, but we know we can change."
20 games into a season, the nets are changing at an alarming rate due to their lack of size. This led to a bad habit where Brooklyn often took the easy way out and made unnecessary off-ball moves. The following play is an example of this with O'Neale asking Durant for an unnecessary shift that he didn't see coming. This caused O'Neale to lose his man during the shootout and create gaps.
Brooklyn hasn't been on the same defensive line for most of the season. A tendency to not return to their desires instead of working with their husbands is often behind divorces.
The Nets ran impressive offense for much of Friday's game, shooting 55.7 percent from the field and 40.6 from 3 through the first three quarters. However, sluggish pass defense prevented them from increasing the lead in some places and ultimately proved to be the deciding factor.
Here, Brooklyn hit a three to extend its lead to six before falling on the next possession.
In another sequence, the Nets scored three to extend the lead to nine before falling asleep with three straight shots to cut Indiana's deficit to five.
Brooklyn's lack of pass rush was evident in the second half. The Nets lost to Hield for the first time, leaving Aaron Nesmith and Benedict Mathurin as the two best shooters at the three open spots.
Overall, Brooklyn hasn't been able to show the unity and support needed to overcome their lack of size and point guard skill for most of this season.
With no backcourt, the Nets will need more of O'Neale and Harris if they hope to hold their own defensively. To avoid constant miscommunication and inconsistency, they will need to show more dedication and focus when navigating the midfield.
The Nets could certainly benefit from an influx of talent on defense. But until it gets there, Brooklyn will have to rethink its more-than-necessary, banal approach to a team that can't hit .500.
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