The second-year head coach wanted a better effort from his starting line-up to begin the game, one through five, and as the numbers show, it was anything but.
By the end of the first, the Nets had given up 36 points to the Kings on 80% shooting, scoring only 20 points of their own on under 30% from the field. After trailing by as many as 21 in the second, the Nets eventually made their way back, losing 104-99, but expended a ton of energy just to narrow the deficit over the remainder of regulation.
In fact, during their current four-game skid, the Nets have allowed 31.5 points per first quarter, and 60.5 points per first half. So, To win, Nets must rid themselves of slow starts.
“Yeah, giving up 36 points in the first quarter … they have good players on the other side and you can’t get in a hole like that,” Atkinson said after losing to the Kings. “It is disappointment in our defense and our defensive mentality to start the game – I think to start the game we were kind of just waiting to see what happens instead of being the aggressor. Our activity isn’t high enough and you know it’s one through five – it’s not – it’s really one through 15 and I think when we brought that second group in it was similar.”
Spencer Dinwiddie, who had a team-high 16 points against the Kings, also discussed what happened in the fourth, but citing that it doesn’t matter as much as the first if the team gets off to that bad of a start.
And now, it’s become the constant in recent Nets outings.
“It ain’t the fourth it’s the first,” said Dinwiddie. “You know the first half we gave up too many points. I mean ultimately we didn’t make enough shots but at the same time, sixty-four points I believe in the first half, that’s unacceptable.
“I don’t know what you want to call it. Lack of focus, lack of attention to detail, lack of effort, I don’t know what you want to call it. Sixty-four points in the first half is inexcusable, regardless of what team you play. So that’s the game.”
Caris LeVert echoed those same sentiments.
“They came out better than us in the first half,” he said. “They had more energy, more pop. We kind of got down in the first quarter, and it was tough fighting back – we can’t start a game off like that.”
Oddly enough, the Nets’ most-recent victory was over the Washington Wizards, who they’ll face on Friday night, their final home game of the calendar year. The Nets won 103-98 on the December 12 contest, and had their best first quarter in their recent string of games.
The team outscored the Wizards 30-22 before bending in the second quarter, entering the second half tied at 51. Though, the Nets will probably settle for that now, given their recent performances off the tip.
Except, John Wall wasn’t playing.
Bradley Beal scored 28 on 33% shooting (11-for-33) in large part because of Wall’s absence due to injury. This time around, as the Nets still await the returns of Jahlil Okafor and D’Angelo Russell, they may not be as fortunate, and with a road trip on the horizon, snapping this winning streak now becomes that much more important.