The Brooklyn Nets have won exactly two games since the month of February began. Five weeks, two wins.
While a lot of things have conspired to drop the Nets into a 2-13 stretch, rebounding has been a big part of the skid. Kenny Atkinson lent voice to that Saturday.
“The morning of the Sacramento game, after the Cleveland game, I felt like we lost the game because we couldn’t rebound,” said Atkinson regarding February 27 and March 1 road losses. “I felt like against Cleveland we get one rebound, we win the game, and we couldn’t get that rebound. Then I looked at the stats, and our analytics group comes to me and says the last 15 games we’re last in the league in rebounding, which, holy God – that’s just not acceptable.”
It has gotten markedly better in recent games. The Nets have out-rebounded three of their last four opponents (but winning only one of those games) heading into Sunday night against Philadelphia. Before the Kings overtime loss on March 1, the Nets hadn’t beaten a team on the boards since the Pelicans on February 10 when they out-rebounded New Orleans, 60-59, in double overtime.
And while Atkinson acknowledges the issue, he’ll also point to the positives.
“The last four games, and I know, small sample size and all that, we’re like third in the league in rebounding,” he said. “Sometimes it’s a wake-up call, we’re not rebounding the ball. It also coincides with Rondae (Hollis-Jefferson) and Caris (LeVert) coming back. We’re doing a much better job and that’s my point. I think it was a big reason we went through those struggles.”
There are other ways to illuminate the problem.
“Film helps, and I think stats help,” he added. “That’s where analytics plays a huge role, and these guys are smart. They don’t want to be last. I’m not saying that’s the reason. It’s multiple reasons, but really pleased that we’ve (improved) and we’ve got another task tomorrow with a very, very athletic team. Let’s see if we could do it again. That’s really helping our defense rebound better the last four games.”
And on Sunday, the Nets will have to try to keep the 76ers, led by Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, off the boards. Most recently, the Nets took care of home court, defeating Philly 116-108 on January 31, and pulled down 39 rebounds to the Sixers’ 33. Embiid finished with 29 points and 14 rebounds, but no other Sixer had more than six boards (Dario Saric).