The opponents change but the results remain the same. The Nets lost their seventh straight game in gut-wrenching fashion on Monday night to the lowly Cavaliers. Here are my thoughts.
1. Three-Point Ratio and Percentage
The Nets were 10-40 from three-point range on Monday night. That’s 25%. Of their 99 shot attempts, 40% were from three. The league is trending towards more three-pointers taken and made as the math says three points are worth more than two. That’s understood. But 40 attempts is an awful lot for a team that doesn’t shoot it particularly well from distance. For the season the Nets average just under 35 attempts per game, top 5 in the league. They convert at a rate of 34.5% which is bottom third in the league.
Following a game earlier this season I asked head coach Kenny Atkinson about the balance between driving the gaps and taking threes. He said,
Balance is the key. We are not a team that’s going to take forty threes a game.
It sure seems like this is a team that will take close to 4o threes on any given night. Still, while this was likely a slight aberration, poor shooting was the issue and it compounded all night and the Nets just couldn’t overcome it.
If you look at the box stats the final numbers will say the Nets got outrebounded 55-50. In a vacuum that doesn’t seem so bad. But within the context of the game, it was worse. The Cavs seemed to get more key rebounds at crucial moments in the game. Also, the Nets shot poorly from the field (39-99) so the Cavs had plenty of opportunities. On many of those misses, they were one and done possessions for the Nets or they were beaten to 50-50 balls. The Nets knew Tristan Thompson was someone they had to key on, and they “limited” him to 14 rebounds. The problem was they allowed Jordan Clarkson to grab a career-high 11 rebounds and Alex Burks to grab a season-high 7.
3. Spencer Dinwiddie and D’Angelo Russell
These two seem to make an appearance in every postgame thoughts column. But, what they do is often noteworthy. Russell finished with 30 points on 13-31 from the field. He was not very efficient, but for most of the game, he was the only Net that could make a shot. He singlehandedly kept them within striking distance for most of the game. The problem was, as his shot went cold, he continued to shoot it.
Dinwiddie finished with 18 points on 6-14 from the field. He was solid and hit a big three late in the fourth quarter. Atkinson continues to start the two, as he likes what they provide. There needs to be a better balance in shot attempts between the two going forward if they continue to share the floor.
4. Rodions Kurucs
The Nets’ second-round pick from the 2018 draft had 12 points and four rebounds in 14 minutes. Atkinson loved what the rookie was providing down the stretch in terms of energy and scoring. He missed a late three that would’ve put the Nets ahead, but he displayed confidence and didn’t seem overwhelmed by the moment. With his play, he showed Atkinson and the coaching staff that he could handle late-game situations and that he might warrant more playing time.
Atkinson wouldn’t commit to Kurucs getting more minutes in his postgame comments but said:
He’s in the conversation, you can’t deny it. We’ll have to look at it. We’ll have to consider getting him minutes. I think he’s shown that he can do it. Now, it’s a competitive environment in the NBA. Minutes are out there, and guys have to compete for minutes, but he’s definitely earning some playing time.
Kurucs believes he is ready and discussed his extended minutes late in Monday night’s game.
Atkinson and GM Sean Marks do not believe in tanking. These guys are competitors and want to win. However, it seems as though the roster in its current construction has limitations. There are not enough players on the team, who can create for themselves and others in critical moments. That’s ultimately how you win in this league. Now, some of the Nets recent losses have nothing to do with the offense, they’ve certainly scored enough points to win. Those losses were made on the defensive end with mental lapses. Those things can be corrected and Atkinson and his staff are going to work to make sure that happens. But this is not a playoff team as it currently stands. However, given that this coming draft class (2019) appears to be very loaded, at least at the top. It wouldn’t be a bad thing if the Nets were to pick in the top 3. Imagine Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, or Cameron Reddish in a Brooklyn uniform? You add in the cap space (2 max players), Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Joe Harris, Kurucs, and whichever of their restricted free agents they decide to keep? Things could be looking very bright in Brooklyn.