The Brooklyn Nets dropped their third game in a row against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday because they can’t defend.
Oklahoma City is far from an offensive juggernaut. Yes, they have Russell Westbrook who looks like the second coming of Oscar Robertson, but there isn’t much aside from him. Even though he tallied a 30-point triple-double against the Nets, there aren’t many teams in the league who can stop that.
The Thunder had their way in the paint, and Kenny Atkinson knew it. “We’ve got to do a better job protecting the rim. I thought they were getting to the rim, and we didn’t protect it like we should, and we need to do a better job,” said Atkinson following the 124-105 drubbing to Brian Lewis of the New York Post.
Oklahoma City converted on 42 of their 63 two-point attempts, a mark that hovers around 67 percent; on threes, they got held to just 27 percent.
Oladipo, someone who routinely shoots around 42 percent, knocked home 11-of-17 shots. The story was the same with Westbrook, who buried 13-of-21.
Rebounding numbers heavily favored Oklahoma City as well. Brooklyn got outrebounded 46-30, and their leading rebounder was Rondae Hollis-Jefferson with five.
As the title implies, defense seems to be the only issue. However, it’s been like this since the start of the season, and the Nets have struggled to lock down opponents consistently.
The offense is great but overshadowed by the dreadful defense. Oklahoma City gives up about 103 points a contest, and the Nets dropped 105 on them because of lights-out shooting and unrelenting aggressiveness.
Nailing 11-of-29 threes is stellar, and shooting 30 free throws is even better. Moreover, they limited turnovers. Having an offense that can work seamlessly without a true point guard is truly a marvel, especially since they can’t thrive on talent alone.
The point here is this: the Nets will need to consistently play lockdown defense if they don’t want to underachieve. It’ll be a process, but they have the tools to reach a respectable level.
Right now, Atkinson wants his guys to be comfortable with each other since there are a lot of new faces in Brooklyn. As the trust for each other begins to blossom, the changes on defense will be more noticeable.
Furthermore, the Nets have more than enough cap space to sign someone who’s an above-average defender, thus giving all of the young guys someone to learn from.