BROOKLYN -- In the first quarter of the Nets’ 137-112 Monday loss to the Houston Rockets, resident sharpshooter Joe Harris caught fire.
Harris drilled two of his first three three-point attempts in the quarter’s opening moments. He then faked towards a dribble hand-off before cutting to the lane for a tough finish.
But things quelled quickly for the 25-year-old forward. After his hot start, Harris finished two-for-eight from downtown. The Rockets outscored the Nets by 25 in his 19 minutes on the floor and proceeded to build a lead as large as 31 on a Brooklyn team missing two starters in Brook Lopez (rest) and Jeremy Lin (hamstring).
Harris’ shooting night followed Isaac Newton’s Universal Law of Gravity: What goes up, must come down. But Brooklyn’s shooter didn’t focus on the negatives after the game. Rather it comes with the territory of being a perimeter specialist in this league.
“It’s tough but as a shooter, you can’t really get caught up in misses. It’s kind of a short-term memory thing,” a candid Harris told reporters after the game. “You’ve got a rhythm, look for the next one. You’ve got to take it with the same amount of confidence as if you had made the last five. You just can’t get caught up in that stuff. And when I’ve got an open shot, I’m gonna take it regardless of whether I’d missed three in a row or if I’d made three in a row.
“If I have a good look at the basket and it’s not contested, not a bad shot, then I have a lot of confidence in myself when I’m shooting.”
Harris’ confidence from downtown serves as a microcosm for the Nets’ high output from three-point range this season.
Brooklyn ranks second in the NBA in three-pointers attempted (33.2) to just Houston (40). The Nets even rank fifth in the league in made three-pointers (11.2), but their .338 shooting percentage is the league’s third-worst ahead of just Oklahoma City (.325) and Chicago (.315).
In fact, much like Harris’ hot start, the Nets have shot nearly 40 percent from three in first quarters this season. Unfortunately, that number declines as games drag on, bottoming out with third quarters where the team shoots a .292 clip from downtown.
Brooklyn tied a franchise record with 44 threes attempted on Monday and combined with Houston for an NBA record 88 attempted triples. Nets coach Kenny Atkinson says execution isn’t the issue; some shots just aren’t dropping.
“You know, it’s funny. In that third quarter, I felt we got four or five good looks. I thought we got some good looks, they don’t go down and boom,” Atkinson told reporters during his post-game press conference.
“It was a lot of in-and-outs today, man,” added Nets guard Sean Kilpatrick, who endured a tough shooting night with just five points on 2-for-11 shooting and 1-for-7 from downtown. “Even a couple shots when Joe took them. Every time Joe shoots, we think it’s going in. And a lot of his shots were in-and-out -- it was down, and then it just rolled out. We can’t control that, though.”
Despite the perimeter shooting woes, Brooklyn’s coach said he won’t pull the plug on his hunting for threes just yet.
“I think that’s kind of our thing, we’re still gonna embrace that process where if they’re open, you guys have the freedom to take them,” Atkinson said. “And we believe in it as a staff and as a group.”
It’s that reassurance from the top down, Harris says, that gives the team the confidence the play freely on the court.
“I think it helps everyone because everyone just plays their game,” Harris said. “Offensively, coach gives guys a lot of freedom. You don’t feel a lot of pressure when you’re out there playing. You know that he has confidence in you to go out there and make plays and play your game, play your role.”