It’s not “adapt or die” in the NBA playoffs. It’s “adjust or die.” Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash is going to be on the hot seat if this doesn’t turn around. With the series shifting to Brooklyn, Nash needs to make a few adjustments in the wake of two crushing losses.
This isn’t a call for Nash to completely change what the Nets do. Rather, these are minor tweaks that he can make to help the Nets win these winnable games. Let’s take a look at three adjustments Nash needs to make for Game 3.
Ride the Hot Hand (Goran Dragic)
This isn’t rocket science and it extends to more than riding the hot hand. Ultimately, it’s about Nash being more flexible and more reactive to the situation in front of him. In Game 2, his most egregious error was burying Goran Dragic on the bench.
The Nets couldn’t buy a bucket in the third quarter, but Nash’s substitution muscle memory took over. Instead of riding Dragic’s hot hand, Nash went to Patty Mills as his first substitution in the second half.
This isn’t meant as a slight to Mills. His ability to knock down open threes can be deadly when Durant and Irving are playing well.
But that’s the issue here. Durant and Irving were in hell against this Boston defense. Dragic’s shot creation could have helped alleviate the pressure. Mills played more than Dragic in the second half. Inexcusable by Nash and it could be one of many reasons why Brooklyn loses this series.
This is an important adjustment that Nash can make ahead of Game 3. Game-to-game tweaks are important, but in-game adjustments will make or break a team.
Play LaMarcus Aldridge or Blake Griffin
Every team tightens up its rotations in the playoffs. This is nothing new and it’s not necessarily the problem for Brooklyn.
But this adjustment dovetails with riding the hot hand. Durant and Irving needed offensive help in the worst way in Game 2. Outside of lobs and dump-ins at the basket, Boston isn’t worried about Andre Drummond or Nic Claxton. As a result, Boston defenders can shade the coverage toward Durant and Irving.
Giving LaMarcus Aldridge minutes might hurt the Nets on defense, but it would do wonders for Durant and Irving on the other side of the ball. Aldridge can play the pick-and-pop game better than anyone in Brooklyn’s big-man rotation.
As for Blake Griffin, he might not be the All-Star player he once was, but he always brings energy. The Nets could have used his energy as a way to match what Grant Williams brought into the game for the Celtics.
Nash won’t play both of these vets (and he shouldn’t), but Aldridge and Griffin could impact this series in their own unique ways.
Get Kevin Durant Going
Obviously, this is easier said than done. Boston is the No. 1 defense in the NBA and it’s not because of the scheme. Sure, that’s part of it, but it’s the personnel. The length and physicality of the wings, the switchability of almost every player on the floor, and the continuity of playing together for years — the Celtics have it all.
Nash is a Hall of Famer turned coach who certainly knows more about basketball than this blogger, but the fix doesn’t seem too complicated. Space the floor so the Celtics can’t overcommit on the help.
Through two games, the Nets’ gameplan for Durant is too focused on isolation and ball screens into the teeth of the defense. Again, we know that the Celtics won’t make it easy on Durant, but Nash has to be more creative in finding ways to get him open. If Durant doesn’t get going, the Nets are cooked.