Slowing down Deron Williams is the key to beating the Nets.
The Nets have struggled defensively against teams that play at a fast pace and convert three-point field goals at a high rate. At the other end of the floor, Brooklyn has a tendency to be careless with the ball, particularly when opponents crowd the paint area and put extra pressure on Deron Williams and Joe Johnson.
But the Nets are a quality team with a star-studded roster. They’re playoff bound for a reason.
Having a blueprint strategy for facing the Nets helps, but having a strategy and actually executing it are two entirely different things. The NBA is all about matchups, so having the right personnel to exploit Brooklyn’s weaknesses is essential.
The Nets rank last in the NBA in pace. They play slow and they've had a lot of success doing it. But they have trouble against talented teams like the Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors that prefer to play at a fast tempo.
Brooklyn is 7-12 against teams that rank in the top 10 in pace. Fortunately for them, the majority of those teams are in the Western Conference, with the Milwaukee Bucks being the only team from the East on that list. The Nets split their season series 2-2 with the Bucks, who are currently clinging to the final playoff spot.
Fast break points often come off of turnovers like the one seen in the video above. A careless pass by Joe Johnson resulted in an easy transition dunk for Kawhi Leonard. The Spurs outscored the Nets 11-2 on fast break points and won 111-86.
In three losses to the Miami Heat, the Nets were outscored a combined 56-18 on fast break points.
The Nets have fared poorly against teams that shoot at a high percentage from beyond the arc. They are just 3-13 against teams that rank in the top seven for three-point field goal percentage.
Teams like the Rockets and Heat, that like to play fast and shoot a lot of three-pointers, have given Brooklyn fits. More turnovers often lead to more fast breaks, which in many instances lead to more open three-point attempts. It’s been a vicious cycle for the Nets and a recipe for success for their opponents.
LeBron James ate Brooklyn alive at the Barclays Center on January 30. He scored 24 points and went 3/4 from 3-point land while leading the Heat to a 105-85 victory. The Heat shot 11 of 19 from three-point range and outscored the Nets 20-4 on fast break points.
Turnovers have been a big problem for the Nets, mainly because they lead to easy points for the other team. In four games from March 1 to March 8, Brooklyn gave the ball away a combined 85 times. Thanks to ugly wins over the lowly Washington Wizards and Charlotte Bobcats, they were able to go 2-2 over that stretch.
According to Mike Mazzeo of ESPNNewYork.com, the Nets are 20-6 when they commit fewer than 13 turnovers.
The games against the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday and Detroit Pistons on Monday provided a microcosm of the Nets' Jekyll and Hyde turnover issues this season. Brooklyn committed 16 turnovers against the Hawks and lost 105-93. They surrendered only nine turnovers to the Pistons and won 119-82.
Applying pressure to D-Will is the key to disrupting the Nets offense.
After Sunday night’s loss to the Hawks, Brooklyn’s floor general told Mazzeo that focus has been a big issue with the team.
“I don’t know why,” he said. “I’ve been trying to figure that out all year. We’ve been really inconsistent game to game.” (via ESPNNewYork.com)
The best way to slow down the Nets offense is to neutralize their superstar point guard.
Of course this is easier said than done.
Prior to last night’s win over the Dallas Mavericks, D-Will was averaging 23.5 points on 47.6 shooting since the All-Star break. He’s on fire and is almost unstoppable at the moment.
But if you’re trying to stop him, the best option is to clog the paint area to cut off his passing and driving lanes. This is an effective tactic to use against the Nets because forwards Reggie Evans and Gerald Wallace are such poor shooters.
Wallace has made just 13 of his last 54 attempts from the field, while Evans averages only 3.9 points per game.
The Nets are still vulnerable in many areas and have a lot of holes to patch up. But aside from the Heat, they’re the hottest team in the Eastern Conference at the moment. With the Knicks slumping, the Atlantic Division is Brooklyn’s to lose.
Last night’s win over the Mavericks put the Nets 12 games over .500 for the first time this season. If Deron Williams keeps playing like a superstar they’ll be a very tough matchup for a lot of teams in the playoffs.
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