The Brooklyn Nets might be the consensus top contender in the East thanks to their Big 3, but they seem to have plenty to work on.
For the second time in three days, the Nets surrendered a concerning amount of points in a loss to a young Cleveland Cavaliers team, this time falling 125-113 on Friday. This one came with the excuse of Kevin Durant being out due to “Achilles injury recovery,” but the team lost the benefit of the doubt with its 147-135 double-overtime loss on Wednesday.
In two games since Kyrie Irving returned to the team, the Nets have allowed an average of 119 points in regulation to a team that was posting 99.5 points per game entering Wednesday, then the worst mark in the NBA.
Sure, they had Irving and James Harden doing things like this:
But there were also plenty of moments like this:
This energy in transition is terrible, just so pathetic pic.twitter.com/B2bTZwGOSE
— Talkin’ Nets (@TalkinNets) January 23, 2021
The box score tells a similarly rough story. The Nets got outrebounded 50-29, hardly surprising given their lack of big men against a sizable Cavs frontcourt (including ex-Net Jarrett Allen). The team got simply bullied on the inside, outscored 70-46 in the paint.
The good news for the Nets is that their Big 3 is scoring as advertised. Irving had 38 points and 5 assists, while Harden was again deferential, scoring only 19 but recording 11 assists, a good sign he’s buying into the team’s ball movement. The pair, and Durant, posted similar numbers last game.
The bad news, however, is the Nets are defending and rebounding as feared when they formed their Big 3. Harden and Irving have never been considered strong defenders, and putting them in the same backcourt is how you get Collin Sexton dropping 67 points and 14 assists in the span of two games. Combine that with the fact that the team has only one true center, 32-year-old DeAndre Jordan, and the Nets offense is going to have be otherworldly — which it very well might be, it’s Durant, Harden and Irving — to compensate for other parts of the game.
Harden said as much after the game, while head coach Steve Nash conceded the Nets are “not a defensive roster.”
James Harden: "Our problem isn't offense. Defensively, we have to be more engaged."
— Alex Schiffer (@Alex__Schiffer) January 23, 2021
Fortunately for the Nets, they have months to figure things out before the playoffs. But they will have to eventually figure things out.
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