(Markel Brown hoists up a three against tough Memphis defense – @BrooklynNets)
The three most overused words around the Brooklyn Nets in the month that Tony Brown has coached this team have been “pace of play.”
The Nets and their brain trust keyed in on this phrase because they feel that the faster they play and the more points they score, the more games they will win.
It sounds simple, right.
In their last two games at Barclays Center, Friday night’s 128-119 win over against Sacramento and Monday night’s win over Denver kind of proved the point that an up-tempo offense can win.
The problem is that the Nets, an organization that always overinflates success, even with a record of 14-40 on the season, will forget to mention that they beat two teams that are also playing out the string and looked like they didn’t care. This was especially true of the dysfunctional Sacramento Kings.
Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies was a far different story.
The Grizzlies are a perennial playoff team with a lockdown defense installed by Lionel Hollins.
Oh wait, yes, the same Lionel Hollins the Nets ran out of towm a month ago.
The same Lionel Hollins that, when he had Alan Anderson and Deron Williams last season, put out one of the toughest defenses in the Eastern Conference.
The same Lionel Hollins who made Brook Lopez a double-double machine and made him a menace under the glass, getting more rebounds than ever.
Lopez on Wednesday night had four rebounds in 30 minutes because defense has been thrown out the window with Brown.
The same Lionel Hollins revived careers like Zach Randolph by making him become a force on defense. The 14-year veteran, who joined Memphis in 2009, is one of the best centers in the league with 14.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game this season.
When Randolph was with the Knicks from 2007 to 2009, he was a flop. Part of that was because there was not a focus on defense or instilling a system.
It’s all about “pace of play” and “entertaining basketball” for the Nets.
This is not the Golden State Warriors. There is no Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson or Draymond Green taking the floor.
Until the Nets get players of that caliber, and with no draft picks and no real foundation (no, Thaddeus Young is not the foundation of anything), that is not going to happen.
The thing about a defensive system is that you can win with average players and the team is a collective.
The Nets lost to a banged-up Chicago Bulls team in the 2013 playoffs because they could not overcome Tom Thibodeau’s defense and their tenacity.
The Grizzlies were playing on Wednesday night without Marc Gasol, who is out with a broken foot.
Their lock-down defense overcame a 27-point first quarter by the Nets, and responded by outscoring them 67-36 over the next two quarters to take a 26-point lead into the fourth and win 109-90.
Nets Interim Head Coach Tony Brown said of what changed in the third quarter, in which Memphis outscored the Nets 39-18, “I don’t know. We didn’t come out ready to play that third quarter. We got back in the game even though we had whatever turnovers at halftime. We were five points down, so I thought if we came out with some type of force and some type of energy we might’ve had a chance to stay in this game. But Memphis is a veteran-laden team. They know how to play. They’re a playoff team, so it’s not their first rodeo. They got on the run early and we had nothing to combat that. They played well.”
The message of this game, that they were mastered by a defensive juggernaut, did not sink in on Brown, as exhibited by his answer to a a question on what he wants to see in the second half of the season, “I still want to play the way we’re playing most nights. To play with that pace I think it awfully good for us when we do it and we do it the right way.”
Brown then conceded the obvious when he next said, “Obviously, defensively, we have to still continue to work. There’s no way you can put together a number of wins if you don’t play on both ends.”
Though Brown said it, the numbers don’t lie, as they have given up over 100 points in 15 of the 17 games he has run the Nets. They have gone 4-13 with him at the helm.
Nets forward Joe Johnson was held without a basket for the first time in 937 consecutive games. he shot 0-for-3, 0-1 on threes, with two rebounds and an assist, in 23 minutes
Nets forward Thaddeus Young, who finished with 10 points and 9 rebounds said of the game getting out of hand, “They hit three big shots that just kind of put us out of the game. I think Mike Conley hit two threes and they got a layup or something like that from Z-Bo (Zach Randolph) or somebody else and by that time we were down 11 or 12. It was just rough to try to come back and overcome that. They’re a tough team to play. There are a lot of guys on the team that can score the basketball. They’re a solid veteran team. They know how to play well with each other and they know how to get into their mismatches and how to get into their schemes and their coverages.”
Lopez said of all the open shots Memphis had, “We talked about it before the game. Those are kind of warm-up shots that guys can’t have. Once (Jeff Green) starts making a couple, hitting one from deep and hitting that fade away shot as the shot clock expired, those are the tough ones. You can’t allow guys like that to get in a rhythm, it just makes it more difficult.”