The New Jersey Nets had their first extended road trip of the season this past week and had a rough go of it.
The team is proving to be a good defensive squad, but they need to improve their offensive efficiency and need to rebound better.
They very easily could have been 4-0 on the trip had they hit more open shots, rebounded better and not given up so many free throw attempts.
The turnover issue seems to be back as well.
Here's a quick recap of the week:
The team went 1-3 on the week, is 4-9 overall and sits at fourth in the Atlantic Division.
I normally like to start out with the bad and finish with the good, but the first thing that needs to talked about this week is the defense. We'll also see how some other key statistics are seriously undermining this aspect of the game.
New Jersey is quietly one of the better defensive teams in the league.
The Nets are in the top 10 in opponent points (96) and field goal percentage (44.4), and are 11th in opponent three-point field goal percentage (34.6).
They were right around their season average last week in points allowed (96.6) and actually got better in field goal percentage, as opponents shot at 42.5 percent overall and 33 percent on threes.
This is all great, but the team's turnovers, opponent offensive rebounds and propensity for allowing free throw attempts directly reduce the impact of the defensive effort.
Turnovers have been a problem for New Jersey all year, but it appeared they were improving in that regard coming into this week.
They ended up averaging 13 turnovers a game, which is decent, but consider that they had 15 and 17 against Utah and Sacramento. They would have had a much better shot at beating the Jazz and likely would have come out on top against the Kings by taking better care of the ball.
Turnovers are going to happen. The leading team a year ago, Atlanta, averaged 12 per game, so it's not like 13 is a terrible number. It's just the timing of some of them and the fashion they come in, often on lazy cross-court passes or a lack of awareness of where the defenders are, that makes them so crushing.
Opponent free throw attempts are also a major issue. The Nets are 25th in the NBA in opponent free throw attempts at 28.8. This past week, opponents averaged more than 30 a game.
Guys, you're holding teams to a low-40's shooting percentage. Don't bail them out by sending them to the line so often.
Opponents made more free throw attempts (99) than the Nets even attempted this week (94), which is compounding this problem.
The Nets are one of the worst teams in the league in terms of free throw attempts of their own. For the year, they've shot 76.8 percent on free throws, but this past week they were at 83 percent, showing they're a decent free throw shooting team.
If they could get to the line a bit more often and give up a few less attempts, they should be able to find the win column more often.
Now to the area that this team needs to improve upon immediately, rebounding.
All the work the Nets do on the defensive end immediately goes to waste when they allow their opponents second chances. This week, New Jersey gave up an average of 13.3 offensive rebounds.
Now, Sacramento is statistically the third-best team in the NBA in offensive rebounding, but the 18 they got against New Jersey is unacceptable, especially considering they shot just 42.9 percent in that game.
A lot of this is going to fall on Brook Lopez, and rightfully so since he is averaging less than seven RPG. Some of the blame needs to fall on the guards as well, though.
The Nets were spoiled for many years by Jason Kidd, who is one of the best rebounding point guards ever.
This year, New Jersey's guards are averaging just 2.6 RPG. That number needs to rise.
On long rebounds after missed jump shots, the guards need to be more attentive and be ready to snatch the ball. Doing this will not only make all that defensive work worth it, it will also enable to the team to run a bit more as they have a number of players capable of handling the ball.
The team's three-point shooting also seems to have disappeared as of late, as the team shot 27.2 percent from beyond the arc this week.
They could have at least gone 2-2 or 3-1 with a higher connect rate on three-pointers.
Individually, Devin Harris had a rough week as he could not find his shot and was even ejected after a flagrant foul against the Clippers. His assist numbers were still good and it's unlikely he will continue to have trouble scoring.
Kris Humphries has been injected into the starting lineup and has been very impressive. He's strong going after rebounds and his offensive game is better than expected.
Lopez needs to be more aggressive. He missed a lay up against Denver in the final seconds that would have tied the game. It seemed he could have gone up and attempted a slam that could have drawn a foul, but instead tried to bank it off the glass.
If he wants to be considered an elite center he needs to be stronger in going to the rim. He doesn't need to look far, either, as Derrick Favors routinely finishes with aggression around the basket, something Lopez can learn from.
Jordan Farmar continues to play well off the bench, particularly when he filled in for Harris after his ejection.
Stephen Graham has also seen increased minutes lately, as Terrence Williams' minutes have been greatly reduced.
The situation with Williams and Troy Murphy bears watching going forward.
Williams has a lot of talent and Murphy was New Jersey's biggest offseason acquisition, yet neither has seen much floor time lately.
Both were hurt last week, but both seem to think they are ready to play. Murphy has been made inactive and Williams is having a hard time getting into the rotation. It is possible that the Nets are preparing to deal both players.
New Jersey plays four games in the coming week, hosting Atlanta and Portland while traveling to Boston and Philadelphia.
Let's aim low and hope for 2-2.
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