You've certainly seen it on the television broadcasts of the Brooklyn Nets’ losses in Games 1 and 2 against the Philadelphia 76ers. The Nets will secure a stop, or even take it out of the basket, and the bench transforms into a smattering of third-base coaches, players and coaches alike windmilling their arms and imploring the team to push the ball up-court. Don’t expect that to change much as the Brooklyn returns home to dig themselves out of an 0-2 hole. In fact, you more be seeing more of the same.
Head Coach Jacque Vaughn, as well Nic Claxton and Spencer Dinwiddie, were made available to the media after practice on Wednesday, and all three emphasized the need to accelerate the offense. There were no ambiguities regarding an area of improvement the Nets are honing in on for the remainder of the series.
Vaughn incorporated his vision of pushing the pace into nearly every answer about Brooklyn’s so-far-subpar offense. When discussing Claxton’s quiet start to the postseason (five points on 2-6 shooting over two games), Vaughn said he wants to see his starting center “outrunning Joel [Embiid] and getting up the floor, and he should have multiple layups because he just outruns the defense.”
Dinwiddie, his starting point guard, has also had a rough series, to this point, against Philadelphia, shooting under 42% from the floor while not looking like the decision-maker who led the NBA in assists over the moth of March. What is Vaughn looking for from Dinwiddie? You guessed it: “I think Spencer has the ability to do a multitude of things for us. And that is get out in transition when the ball is kicked ahead to him and also him kicking the ball ahead. So that piece of it. I think we can play faster. It is without a doubt we’re playing below the pace that we averaged during the season. So we have to increase that. So that’s not only Spencer but that’s everybody.”
Asked if Dinwiddie agrees with his coach on establishing a more aggressive offense earlier in the shot clock, he said “Yeah, of course. You wanna attack early in transition. The best quality shots typically are early in the shot clock, just by the numbers and the points per possession, they tell us all the time. Kick it ahead a lot obviously...get into our plays a little bit quicker. That’s one of the things that in this series so far we haven’t done a great at and that we kinda drilled in the practice today.””
As Dinwiddie mentioned, pushing the pace isn’t just about creating transition buckets for the Nets, but flowing into half-court offense quicker and avoiding those pesky end-of-shot-clock situations. He ascribed some of his lack of shooting efficiency thus far to poor shot quality. “Just from the standpoint of half of them are like five seconds or less on the shotclock,” Dinwiddie said. “Nobody in the league is pretty proficient at that.”
“That’s why, kind of, you can’t just narrow in on Spencer,” said Vaughn once again returning to the need for pace. “It’s a collective bucket, a little bit, because we’re getting late into the shot clock because we’re not getting the ball out quick and pushing it up quick with multiple ball-handlers.”
Of course, Brooklyn would like to see a few more easy shots in transition, to get their home crowd up and roaring in Games 3 and 4, but the emphasis on pace-pushing goes deeper than that for Vaughn and his group. The more transition looks the Nets can create, the better. Specifically avoiding late-clock situations makes a world of difference for a Brooklyn offense reliant on 3-point shooting. So far, against Philadelphia, the Nets are shooting 13-23 on threes taken with at least 15 seconds left on the 24. Once that shot clock dips below seven seconds, however, the Nets are a ghastly 2-17 from deep (nba.com).
Claxton summed up Brooklyn’s current offensive philosophy responding to a question regarding Philadelphia's varied defensive looks, and how those are impacting his team: “We just need to play faster. I think that’ll help us a lot, just playing faster and everybody getting into space and transition, just putting up a lot of threes and guys just playing and not thinking a lot.”
This series hasn't been the track meet the Brooklyn Nets envisioned, and it’s got them in an 0-2 hole. The East’s six seed is now in desperation mode, with two must-win home games coming up. Expect them to push the pace, or die trying.