Nets’ defense may end up being key to NBA championship run

The most effective offensive workforce within the historical past of offense struggled in Saturday’s playoff opener, however the Nets nonetheless in some way ground their way to a Game 1 victory over Boston. And they shockingly did it on the opposite end of the courtroom.

It begs the query of whether or not the Nets — and their much-maligned defense — can preserve grinding their method to the 15 extra wins they’ll want for a title?

“I’m glad we played well on the defensive end: There’s been so much talk about our defense,” Jeff Green mentioned. “People noticed that when our photographs aren’t falling … we have been in a position to concentrate on defense and get stops.

“That’s what got us Game 1. It’s important throughout the playoffs that we stay high energy on the defensive end, because it took us a long way.”

It took the Nets to a 1-0 first-round lead going into Tuesday’s Game 2. They harassed the Celtics to 36.9 % capturing, and simply 20 factors in every of the third and fourth quarters.

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving #11, defending against a shot by Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker #8, in the 1st quarter.
Kyrie Irving defends a shot from Celtics’ Kemba Walker.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

They were stout enough to maintain Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker to a mixed 37 factors on 11 of 36 capturing. They usually are not boastful sufficient to suppose they’ve the solutions to assure it’ll occur once more.

“If we think we’re the greatest defensive team of all time, we’re probably asking for a butt-kicking in Game 2,” coach Steve Nash mentioned. “If we’re humble and hungry and stick to our details and game plan, maybe we have a chance to make it difficult for them.”

That recreation plan requires a heavy dose of switching on defense.

Their Defensive Rating — simply twenty seventh after a Feb. 9 loss in Detroit left them 14-12 — improved to 18th of their 34-12 shut to the season. Much of that was from doubling down on — and getting used to — their scheme.

Switching 1-through-5 is how Green and James Harden performed final yr in Houston underneath present Nets assistant Mike D’Antoni. That’s how an offensive workforce led by Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving defended the Celtics out of sync, particularly with Green and Nic Claxton at heart.

“Their switching is kind of disruptive. It throws you off-balance,” Evan Fournier mentioned. “The offense isn’t the same when the guys in front of you have to switch 1-through-5. You can create advantages with pin-downs, pick-and-rolls; but when they switch, it kind of kills everything.”

That’s its function, the rationale it’s the defense for contemporary playoff basketball. It’s why the Nets dumped the old-school drop protection they’d performed with the departed Jarrett Allen and DeAndre Jordan, who didn’t play in Game 1. They lured Boston into dangerous isolation possessions, particularly within the second half. Can they preserve doing it?

“Offensively we just got to get the ball popping, moving, especially with them switching 1-through-5. We can’t get stagnant with the ball and get into isolations,” Boston’s Tristan Thompson mentioned. “That can’t be our main offense, because we did that in the second half and it didn’t work.”

After seeing Tatum reap the benefits of some isolations to rating 15 first-half factors, Nash made a shrewd adjustment. Blake Griffin didn’t play after Green got here on with 4:36 left within the third, and the Nets held Tatum to 0-for-6 within the second half.

“If you look at the numbers, we did a pretty solid job on them. As far as me specifically, [I’m told] just sit down and guard. We had a scheme going, tweaked it a little bit,” Griffin mentioned.

“Blake played well, it’s just trying to share those minutes around,” Nash mentioned. “Nic only played 11; at the end of the game, we had Jeff out there for a longer stretch just because we had a cushion, and his versatility allows you to have some different answers at both ends of the floor.”

Still, Green was a plus-10 in 10:29 fourth-quarter minutes. Claxton logged 4:54, and their potential to swap might be key.

“I take a lot of pride in being able to switch 1-through-5, being able to guard everybody on the floor,” mentioned Green, 34. “No matter how old I get — which people like to toss out there — … I take great value in being able to guard 1-through-5, no matter who is on the court. For me, it’s a great challenge.”

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