I was sitting in my room last night, excited for the new season, watching the Nets get set to take on an underwhelming Celtics team, and then it happened. I really don't know what it was, but it was really ugly. I'm going to try my best to make sense of what went really wrong for the Nets Wednesday night in Boston.
First off, Lionel Hollins may be a great defensive coach, but he will need to do his very best work on the defensive end with this Brooklyn team. We knew that the Nets would struggle on defense—their best starting defender is a 20 year veteran on his last legs—but we weren't prepared for this.
The Nets looked especially bad in the pick-and-roll. The Celtics got into the lane with ease around picks, and the roll man was left wide open right next to the basket for an easy finish. This could be because the Nets big men are still trying to adjust to Hollins' new system, but there was just a total breakdown of communication on Brooklyn's end. Here is Jarrett Jack and Kevin Garnett getting absolutely lost on a Tyler Zeller and Rajon Rondo PNR.
(Hover over the GIFs to start it)
The Nets handled pick-and-roll's differently throughout the game, which is interesting because we don't know if it is situational ...or they are just confused. Multiple times, players went under, then over, or the big man "blitzed" the Celtic getting a screen. That means doubling the man with the ball, like on the very next possession after the prior clip. Watch how hesitant Jarrett Jack is to commit to defend the rolling Tyler Zeller.
This is another play where the Nets just failed to communicate and are just all over the place on the floor. It could be effort, too. Deron Williams wasn't shy about saying that after the game, and it can be seen with some lackadaisical rotations during the course of the game. Often the Nets were seen watching the ball get swung along the perimeter and were a step too slow to keep up with the Celtics.
There are several things wrong in this play. Garnett shouldn't be playing that high on Sullinger. A capable three-point shooter, Sullinger is quicker than Garnett at KG's advanced (basketball) age and can take him off the dribble. Also, Mason Plumlee was one more slide away from drawing a charge on Sullinger. However, Plumlee casually slid in on the drive and put his hands on the Ohio State product, picking up a foul in the process.
looked particularly bad last night. The second year pro got into foul trouble early, and even though he had two beautiful swats, he got destroyed, fooled might be a better word, by the Celtic bigs. Plumlee only played 11 minutes as a starter and was a -6 when on the floor.
What about effort? Was it effort that plagued the Nets on defense in Boston? Hollins said the Nets lacked "consistent effort." Sure, it definitely wasn't there. But I think that it was more that they seemed overwhelmed by the Celtics ability to execute on the offensive end. The Nets need to adapt to Hollins' system on defense fast and need to be more crisp.
A lot of guys underperformed in the opener. Plumlee got in foul trouble early, forcing Jerome Jordan, essentially training camp signee, into spot minutes at center. With Brook Lopez out, the Nets were razor thin upfront and even though Jordan looked great in preseason, he's not going to come in and make a big impact on the floor, especially at a time of need. Hollins also went with Mirza Teletovic and Andrei Kirilenko as the only bigs on the floor at least twice. That didn't work. The lineup with those two as big men and Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Johnson and Williams on the outside played four minutes and shot 2-of-9 from the floor. The Nets were -4 during that stint. Kirilenko struggled on the floor last night, and Hollins didn't feel the need to let Kirilenko to dig himself out of his hole. Alan Anderson played more than the Russian forward.
There were a few (not many) positives. The Nets did score 64 points in the second half and D-WIll and Joe Johnson proved they can put up numbers. The rumored improvement in Teletovic's game was evident, too, at least on offense. The Nets actually outrebounded the Celtics, 39-35.
The good thing about this game was that it was only Game One, and the Nets were missing their star big man who may be available on Saturday in Detroit. No need to panic yet Nets fans, but this definitely was a rocky start to what we hoped (and still hope) can be a smooth season.