Try this for why the Nets are losing, per Peter Botte in the Post:
The Nets have allowed 120.1 points per game over their past seven losses, including three in a row entering Wednesday’s home game against Utah. They rank 25th in the NBA in defensive efficiency this season, offsetting a strong No. 10 ranking on the offensive side of the court, according to ESPN.
As Botte also notes, the Nets are getting “hammered” —Kenny Atkinson’s words— on the defensive glass and the disparity in fouls is also hurting them. But defense is the killer.
“That disparity is the reason we don’t have two or three more wins,” said Atkinson Monday about the difference between their offensive and defensive rankings. “Our defense has got to improve. We only talked about defense today. From the first day of training camp that’s been our emphasis. I’m a little frustrated we’re not doing better there. We’ve definitely identified that as a problem.”
Enter Rondae Hollis-Jefferson who finally seems fully healthy after straining a hip muscle back in August during a Jerry Lin-sponsored charity game in China. RHJ started Sunday night for the first time this season, replacing Jared Dudley. Going forward, the switch should help the defense (and the 10-year difference in age is dropping the starting lineup’s average age to about 23.)
“We don’t know if it’s set in stone, but just being able to have that start, it felt good,” said Hollis-Jefferson, who started in 59 of his 68 appearances last season. “You know you’re not going to be able to start just because. You’ve gotta put in the work and do the little things. So knowing that I’m doing the right things and everything, it feels good.”
Atkinson told beat reporters that Rondae’s versatility on D is his big advantage.
“I haven’t decided yet [on a lineup], but I liked the change,” Atkinson said. “As Rondae’s come back from injury, I think he’s slowly starting to get back to his last year form.
“We can put him on a point guard, we can put him on a four, we can put him on a five. It’s just a huge advantage, his defensive versatility.”
Meanwhile, as Greg Logan writes, the Nets offense —particularly the duo D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie— is rolling.
Atkinson said he’ll continue to bring Dinwiddie off the bench. He noted that the Nets had considered force feeding the duo back in training camp, but that Caris LeVert’s sudden development changed their minds.
““There was a possibility it was going to be D’Angelo and Spencer starting. Caris’ explosion made it all work out . . . Spencer’s in a good place. He’s one of our top minute guys. He’s embraced his role. The guy’s playing great basketball and D’Angelo’s in a good place, playing really good basketball. How much we use them together is going to be a game-to-game thing. I see great synergy. They’re talking and they’re figuring out what we want to run, and it’s really good.”
“I can’t promise we’re going to combine for 70 points every game,” said Dinwiddie. “That would be a little ambitious. In terms of our roles together, it’s just meshing together and getting that time and being able to become more cohesive.”
Atkinson also confirmed that he’s given DLo the green light on mid-range jumpers. A lot of the 22-year-old’s big moments came between the paint and the three point line. DLo said post-game he appreciated the coach’s confidence.
“It’s just the contested ones that we have an issue with sometimes,” Atkinson said. “But he’s like, ‘Coach, I want to be really good at that shot.’ I’m on board with that. But I also want him to embrace the three. He’s shooting 37 percent from the three. Last night, he mixed in some good attacks to the rim, but 11-for-15 from mid-range was pretty special.”
So, of course, was their 69-point output. Russell’s 38 points was two shy of his career high and Dinwiddie’s 31 tied his career number. DLo hopes the efficiency can continue Wednesday vs. Utah.
“Teams don’t want to see players getting downhill and creating every possession,” Russell said. “I think we’re pretty efficient at it. We’ll keep developing the coach’s trust, and it will be a positive for us.”
- Starting this forward may be key to fixing the Nets’ defense - Peter Botte - New York Post
- D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie starting to mesh on offense - Greg Logan - Newsday
- The underlying reason Nets could keep Rondae Hollis-Jefferson in the starting lineup after ‘roller coaster’ start - Michael Scotto - The Athletic New York