The Nets Scratch and Claw, Still Come Up Short Against the Hawks.
The Brooklyn Nets took on the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday looking to capture their first win of the season. The Hawks were without Kyle Korver (rest), who is recovering from two surgeries during the offseason (right ankle, right elbow), as the Hawks played their second half of a back to back.
The Nets started off the game in typical Nets fashion; forcing a turnover and immediately giving the ball right back to Atlanta. Ultimately, this was an early warning sign of how the game would proceed as the Nets turned the ball over 19 times.
The Nets were able to stay with the Hawks for about three quarters, and they even trailed at halftime. Nets rookie, Rondae-Hollis Jefferson played a big role in helping create the halftime lead. Hollis-Jefferson checked in at the 8:20 mark of the second quarter and the Nets proceeded to go on a 20-10 run to end the first half. During that span, Jefferson had 1 assist, 3 steals, 1 rebound, and played great team and individual defense. However, Jefferson did lack effort on some plays. Below, we see Justin Holiday sprint across the baseline and receive a down screen from Mike Scott. Jefferson lags behind and when he tries to make up for lost time, it is too late as Holiday knocks down the jumper with ease.
All of that could have been avoided if Jefferson had gone under the original screen on the baseline. This was due to a combination of his lack of experience playing defense in the NBA and not noticing the second screen set by Scott. Holiday came off the screen very tight, practically touching shoulders with Scott. Jefferson did not take the right angle when trying to get around the screen by Scott. Jefferson will have to learn that he will not be able to take many possessions off in the NBA. Jefferson has all the physical tools and has a good basketball IQ. He did impress with his team defense and ability to rotate and give help defense when needed. See below as Jefferson slides down from his man and tags Al Horford who slipped a screen.
Despite his good play, Jefferson sparingly saw the floor in the second half, with coach Lionel Hollins electing to play Wayne Ellington as he decided to put an extra shooter on the floor. Jefferson was the only Nets player to finish with a positive plus minus, finishing the game plus 13.
The third quarter started out rough for the Nets as the Hawks went on a 15-9 run with Atlanta shooting 6 of 7 from the field, connecting on their last 5 attempts until the Nets took a timeout with about 8 minutes to play in the third. Brook Lopez refused to give up, posting 16 of his game high 27 points in the third quarter. Lopez finished the third quarter 25 points and 11 rebounds but despite his performance he didn’t receive much help from his teammates, as Thaddeus Young (14 points) and Bojan Bogdanovic (12 points) were the only other double digit scorers for the Nets. Lopez also passed the ball very well, especially when he could sense a double team coming, something he has been criticized for in the past.
The Nets entered the fourth quarter only trailing by 2 but the Hawks continued to keep their foot on the gas. Atlanta’s guards, Dennis Schroder and Jeff Teague proved to be too much for the Nets to handle as Shane Larkin and Jarrett Jack were constantly beat off the dribble. Lopez checked back in the game with about 7 minutes to play and helped cut the lead to 6, but it would prove to be too late, as the Hawks ended the game with a 17-5 run.
In addition to turning over the ball 19 times, the Nets shot 24% percent from deep. They also allowed the Hawks to shoot 37% from deep, continuing a trend of allowing their opponents to score using the three ball at a very effective rate. Through 5 games, the Nets have allowed their opponent to shoot an average of 41% from deep, ranking last in the NBA.
The coaching of Lionel Hollins’ has come into question as of recent due to his questionable rotations, unwillingness to play rookies, and overall not making in game adjustments. On Tuesday, Bovada Sportsbook released odds for the first coach to be fired, and gave Hollins 3/1 odds. After the game Wednesday, Hollins was brought under fire for not putting Lopez in the game earlier in the fourth quarter. However, at the end of the third quarter, Lopez had played 31 minutes, which is right around his career average, so giving Lopez a rest wasn’t the worst idea. However, Hollins’ decision to keep Jefferson on the bench is head scratcher. With Teague and Schroder getting to the rim at ease, a perimeter defender like Jefferson is a better option than Larkin or Jack. On the defensive side of the ball, Jefferson is by far and large the Nets best perimeter player, especially in comparison to Larkin and Jack. Nets face the Lakers on Friday at the Barclays Center, as both teams look to capture their first win of the season. The good news for the Nets is that the Lakers might actually be worse than the Nets (hard to believe, I know), but the Lakers still have a man by the name of Kobe Bryant. Although Kobe has started off slow this year, Friday against the Nets presents a good opportunity for Kobe to break out of his slump.