The Brooklyn Nets got burned by the beam last night. After falling behind early, they spent the entire game chipping away. Any time the Nets took out a major chunk, the Kings were quick to inflate their lead back up. That went on from buzzer to buzzer and resulted in a 131-118 road loss for Brooklyn — their second shell-shocking in Sacramento in as many years.
Mikal Bridges came through with a furious fourth quarter to make things interesting, but while Sacramento saw contributions come from all corners of their roster, Bridges failed to find a consistent Robin all night.
You wouldn’t call it a snoozer, games never are in Sac Town, but the Nets looked a step behind and like team playing two time zones away from home. For anyone who did hit the hay early, here’s what we learned.
Speed is a Double Edged Sword
You always think you’re the fastest on the highway until someone else bolts past you in a Lexus. I’m not condoning speeding, but living in New York, I guess I’m just missing the open road with the analogies.
Regardless, it was the Kings darting past the Nets last night, as Brooklyn got their first taste of a team that wants and knows how to play faster than them all year. It’s something you can forgive Brooklyn for again with the game being on the road and tipping off hours later than they’re accustomed to. But still, it largely contributed to their demise.
The race started simultaneously with the tip. Each team combined for just six turnovers in the first period, but the Kings had a bit more ammunition to load up their fast break, as the Nets shot just 28.6% for the frame. Sacramento wasted no time corralling Brooklyn’s misses and getting out in transition.
However, JaVale McGee did play as the police offer hiding out with a speed gun. He checked into the game and immediately forced three whistles, two against him and one on him. They slowed things down to end the first, but speed returned soon after that.
Sacramento finished the contest with 15 fast break points while Brooklyn finished with just two. That represents their largest loss in the transition department all season.
Some of Sacramento’s points did not count as fast break buckets, but they came in a flash all the same. The Kings did a tremendous job inbounding the ball quickly and pushing it across the court to generate a fast break-like feel to their possession. It’s a trick we’ve seen the Nets try before, but Brooklyn couldn’t get ready on the receiving end and never stood a chance.
We know the Nets like to run, but it has to be at their pace. Brooklyn’s need to dictate a game’s tempo to win is perhaps an underrated weakness given how much they’ve been able to keep their hands on the driving wheel all year. But alas, it’s a weakness and something to monitor when they play other teams like the Kings.
We Can’t Avoid the Perimeter Defense Problem Anymore
There’s no better play in basketball than nailing a triple. So naturally, there’s no bigger punch to the gut than when you give up a three right after making one yourself, and tonight, the Nets took more shots to the midsection than Apollo Creed in Rocky II.
For the second time in five games, the Nets allowed their opponent to shoot above 55% from three on 35+ attempts. The Kings last broke a team record in made threes after going 25-45 from deep. That mark also ties Brooklyn’s own record for the most threes made by a team in the league this year.
The word “inexcusable” does not do stats like that enough justice.
Brooklyn’s perimeter defense was able to hid under the covers of an opponent 3-point percentage of just 35.2% coming into this one — good for eighth best in the league. However, the Nets also averaged the fourth most 3-point attempts given up to their opponents with 38.0 per game.
While teams have not been hitting shots from deep as frequently, the Nets have been giving them away like handouts. When you do that and then face off against a team with shooting talent, you’re going to pay. That’s exactly what the Kings did to the Nets tonight — even at a historic rate.
Dennis Smith Jr. and Ben Simmons are missed, but you cannot rely on those two to save the day, especially Simmons. For as stout as Brooklyn’s been on the boards this year, they need to direct their attention back out to the paint, come with more disciplined close outs, and speed up their rotations or else this will kill them on this road trip.
These Nets Can Hang
Via their aforementioned fast break and 3-point avalanche, the guys in purple jumped out to a 15-point lead with 8:37 to go in the second. However, the Nets took grabbed their toboggans and rode through it, reducing that lead to just six points by halftime.
The Kings built that lead back up to 15 with about nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter, where the Nets cut it so six with about six minutes to go. Sacramento then offered a final blow which Brooklyn could not come back from, but to end on a positive note, the Nets illustrated an ability to hang tough tonight.
It wasn’t the first time they’ve done this, as the Nets are beginning to develop a reputation as one of the NBA’s toughest put-aways as we move into season’s second quarter. A little over a month ago the Nets started a contest at home vs the Chicago Bulls down 30-9, but went on to win. They trailed the Miami Heat in a game 53-38 in the second quarter before also winning that one a few weeks before.
Like tonight, this one ended in a loss, but still, the Nets recently staged a comeback vs the Atlanta Hawks too, going on to force overtime after at one point falling behind 42-31 in the second quarter.
When the Nets got blitzed by the Kings last year in Sacramento they never fought back. They accepted the beating and allowed their deficit to just increase, eventually boiling into a 153-121 loss.
Last night was different, as the Nets staged not one but two semi-comebacks vs Sacramento. A loss is a loss, but if you want to hang your head on something, it does seem like there’s an element of mental toughness with this team that did not exist last year.