Film Study: The Nets failure to defend the paint

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Nets didn't play very well on Tuesday night, Game One. They hung around for the first half and kept close in the third quarter, but after an Andray Blatche missed layup and a Chris Bosh three, the game was essentially out of reach. True, that one sequence set the Nets back, but with the way their defense was playing all night, Brooklyn was lucky to be in the game at that point.

The Nets did do a fine job of containing the Heat's shooters and didn't allow themselves to get burned from beyond the arc too badly. Miami shot 9-of-23 from three, which is marginally better than their season average. Where the Nets lost this game was in the paint.

The Heat got into the lane with ease as the Nets were too caught up with defending the three-point line. By the time the final horn sounded, the Heat scored 52 of their 107 points in the paint. Miami took 35 shots in close and converted nearly 69 percent of those tries. Almost 50 percent of the Heat's shots came from inside the restricted area.

Those are the facts. Now lets look at some film to see how Miami slashed through the Nets defense so easily.

First off, if the Nets are going to commit to not letting LeBron kill them (we will get to that later), then Mirza Teletovic can't help Joe Johnson all that much. Johnson is a capable defender who has a great deal of size on Dwyane Wade, and Mirza has a much tougher cover. The Bosnian isn't a great defender to begin with, but he still can't get caught watching the ball and lose LeBron like he does in the prior clip. LeBron is past Mirza by the time the Teletovic recognizes what is happening.

This is more of a mental lapse than a defensive error in this case but it brings up an interesting decision that Jason Kidd has to make. Kidd must either allow LeBron to get going and dominate the game by scoring, or he must lock him down and make Wade, Bosh and the rest of the Heat beat them.

Last night seemed as if Kidd didn't give out a defensive scheme and rather let each player decide if he was going to stick to LeBron or help off the ball. In this next clip, Andray Blatche and Paul Pierce are much more concerned with their man rather than the best player in the world, but in the second clip, Pierce is so worried about LeBron that he doesn't step in front of Chris Andersen.

Before I dive into the analysis of the play—Andray Blatche is incredibly inept at playing help-side defense. I thought that needed to be shared because it is so fantastically bad.

Anyway, in the first sequence, the Nets do a great job of getting back in transition to stop the Heat from getting a quick bucket. That being said, when LeBron gets into a one-on-one post up with 18 seconds on the shot clock, the Heat are going to get some sort of uncontested shot off of it.

Brooklyn leaves Alan Anderson out to dry with James as he all but gets by Anderson with two steps. Pierce steps in just in time to have an opportunity to force James to take a poor fade away, but Pierce leaves his feet. Pierce clearly shouldn't have left his feet considering James is the superior athlete and can hang in the air as long as possible until he gets the look of his choice. So the Nets adjusted mid-play, but still made a blunder that gave Miami two easy points.

As for the second one, look at how Pierce defends LeBron.

Screen_shot_2014-05-07_at_2.15.25_pm_medium

At first, Pierce is doing a fine job of helping Mason Plumlee as he is dealing with Ray Allen, for he is standing in front of Andersen and blocking his path to the rim. This next picture is two seconds later.

Screen_shot_2014-05-07_at_2.18.16_pm_medium

Pierce is so worried about LeBron, who is nearly 30 feet away from the basket that he leaves Birdman an easy path to the hoop. I would be more content with this decision had this been the game plan all night long for the Nets, but that didn't seem to be the case. The Nets must have a defensive scheme and stick to it throughout the game.

As for how Brooklyn handled the pick-and-roll, it wasn't pretty. All night the Nets big men were caught sliding too slow when hedging and getting beat by the roll man. There wasn't much communication out there.

In this particular sequence, Mason Plumlee does a fine job of sliding out to stop Ray Allen. Marcus Thornton does have trouble getting over the screen, but Plumlee needs to know that Allen isn't all that efficient in pull up situations this season despite his reputation as a sharp shooter (Allen shot 39 percent on pull-ups this season). The rookie does stop Allen, but loses his man, Andersen, who gets an easy lay in. It is a tough situation considering Allen could have had the lane, but after two slides, Plumlee needs to recognize where his man is and hope that Joe Johnson—who is in the corner at this point—can step in. The Nets need to be prepared on what the Heat are going to run and how they will defend Miami. On Tuesday night, it seemed that everyone was on different pages, which is unacceptable at this point in the playoffs.

I think that the Nets poor defensive execution—particularly with holding down the paint—came more with poor preparation than their inability to cover Miami. The Nets flew to Miami Sunday night, were off Monday, and played Tuesday; there just wasn't all that much time for Kidd to formulate a strategy on how to stop the behemoth that is known as the Miami Heat.

I wouldn't panic yet. Kidd now knows what adjustments need to be made and he will conceive a consistent strategy on how to defend the Heat in order for them to take Game 2 on Thursday night. Kidd has done a fine job in the postseason thus far at adapting to the series, so Game 2 will be quite telling as to if the Nets have any shot at slaying the King and his team.

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