After a game that was little more than a rematch between the Nets and 76ers G League teams, and a well-deserved day off, the Nets were back practicing Tuesday at HSS Training Center. But don’t think the Nets will be adding any new sets or strategies in anticipation for Saturday afternoon’s Game 1 in Philly.
Jacque Vaughn believes it’s all about keeping it simple, as he told reporters after practice Tuesday.
“I look at keeping things pretty simple with this group, not overcomplicating this thing. Not introducing a bunch of new sets,” Vaughn said. “All of the above. So that was the approach today. Defensively, just rehearsing what we’ve done in the past and making sure we’re clean with that. And offensively, being in our right spots, basic piece of it. Just real simple today, more about us.”
That of course makes sense for the new-look Nets who had learn on the fly after the roster reshuffle at the trade deadline. The Nets finished 14-17 after Kyrie Irving asked out on February 1 and after a number of ups-and-downs won four of the their last five before Sunday’s regular season meaningless closer.
“As the whole season went on, we learned on the go,” Royce O’Neale said. “I mean now we got some days to actually get stuff in. Breakdown stuff, and you know, make things easier for ourselves.”
Joe Harris who will be playing in his fifth playoffs for the Nets agreed. They will be taking things seriously this week, but not overdoing things.
“This is all about preparation, making sure that you make fewer mistakes than the other team,” Harris said following practice. “The way the week is formatted, tomorrow we’ll have a day off. Today we had a pretty hard practice where you’re keeping everything sharp, your rhythm, for a shooter, getting game reps today was good. I’ll do the same thing Thursday and a little bit lighter Friday. It’ll be a little bit more similar to preparation for a regular game.”
For the 3-and-D Nets, the biggest focus has been on defending the Sixers who with Joel Embiid, James Harden and Tyrese Maxey have a legitimate Big Three and a very solid fourth option in Tobias Harris.
“Just being aggressive and making the right read,” will be the focus, offered Mikal Bridges who, people may have forgotten amidst his scoring binge, is a top NBA defender.
“I think that’s the biggest thing, just simple basketball sometimes. I think just guarding the main guys all the time and not allowing them to break free and get out sometimes a simple play always works as well. If they blitz or trap always just getting the easy, getting the hockey assist or getting the funnel going. I think just playing good basketball, simple basketball will help.”
Asked if he was expecting the Nets to feature “exotic defensive coverages” as their focal point,” Bridges said “exotic” was not the word. “Planning” would be more like it.
“I don’t know about exotic,’” said Bridges. “I don’t know what exotic is but like, it’s going to be tough for sure. I mean, I know how it is, I know how game-planning for top players is. I know being the defender guarding the guy, so I know how the scout can be. I mean, it’s a challenge, and it’s great, man. It’s great for all of us. All it’s going to do is make us better.”
Overall, the Nets gave little away as you would expect. It was all very basic but Vaughn suggested that the Nets know they can give the 76ers a good game, as they did two days after the trade deadline, losing in the last few seconds on a missed call by the refs. As more than one pundit noted, the Sixers looked surprised at the fight the Nets gave them.
“Really didn’t try to take anything away,” Vaughn said of the four games the two teams played this season— all losses, the first with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, the second with only Irving, the third with the new-look roster and the fourth Sunday’s game. “So really I probably look at that third game more than anything if I’m gonna reflect back on something.”
On the big issue, trying to contain Embiid, everyone has been saying much the same thing: it will be a team effort that does it.
“Yeah, just team defense. You know, play together, obviously we’ve been doing for all these years. This year, I think he should win MVP,” said Bridges Tuesday. “It just takes a team, you know? I don’t think anybody can guard him one-on-one in the world. So just, team defense and you’ve got to play for each other.”
Nic Claxton who will have the main job defending the Embiid, said the same thing in an interview with Brian Lewis.
“It’s definitely an individual challenge,” Claxton told The Post. “But it’s going to be on the whole team. That’s not just going to be on me to go out and just shut down the MVP. But it’s going to be good for me, it’s going to make me better as a player, and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, the 76ers are thinking about Bridges and how they will need to defend him. Tyrese Maxey told local media that the Sixers will have to “play him not just one-on-one but a five-man defense. He’s gotta see a crowd every single time that he catches the ball.”
“You see he’s shown a little bit of different things,” Rivers noted. “I mean, he’s done all the things that he’s doing in Brooklyn that he did in Phoenix. He just didn’t have the opportunity to do that a lot. And he didn’t have the weight of doing it consistently. In Phoenix, he did it when they gave it to him. If he wasn’t going they could go away from him…Here, he has to do it every night.”
- Practice sessions: Jacque Vaughn (Video) - Brooklyn Nets
- Practice sessions: Mikal Bridges (Video) - Brooklyn Nets
- Practice sessions: Joe Harris (Video) - Brooklyn Nets
- Practice sessions: Royce O’Neale (Video) - Brooklyn Nets
- Nets focusing on themselves in lead-up to first-round series with 76ers - Christian Arnold - amNY
- Nets-76ers’ juicy recent history hasn’t sparked full playoff rivalry just yet - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Nets’ Mikal Bridges excited to face 76ers — his favorite team growing up - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Nets’ shot to pull off upset of 76ers hinges on 3-point shooting - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Nets looking for way to contain 76ers’ Joel Embiid - Barbara Barker - Newsday
- Can Cam Thomas find some playing time for Nets vs. 76ers in playoff series? - Barbara Barker - Newsday
- Jacque Vaughn making difficult lineup decisions in Nets’ best interest: ‘It’s not conventional’ Cam Thomas can’t be the happiest person in the room. - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News
- Nets Playoff Intel, No. 1: How do you stop Goliath without casting a stone? - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News
- Nets - Sixers series preview and prediction for the 2023 NBA playoffs - David Vertsberger - SNY
- Sixers’ Danuel House Jr. did not participate in practice but is expected to play in NBA playoffs - Keith Pompey - Philadelphia Inquirer