The Nets may have fell short again to the Boston Celtics but their most recent stretch indicates an improvement on defense.
Since giving up 128 points in an embarrassing road loss in New Orleans, the Nets have held their opponents under 100 points in four of their last five games.
Last season, at this time, the Nets were 8-28 and in the midst of a stretch which saw them lose 27 of 28 games. They’re not whey they need to be yet, but this season there’s signs this rebuild remains pointed in the right direction.
On Saturday night at home, the Nets limited the Celtics to a 37.8 shooting percentage. Boston, backed by Kyrie Irving’s 21 points, managed to escape Barclays Center with a tough 87-85 win. The loss snapped Brooklyn’s two-game win streak and dropped them to 15-24 on the season.
Irving had the game-high in the win for Boston but the Nets made sure he worked for every point. Brooklyn’s defense kept Irving to 8 of 22 shooting from the field.
In their last two losing streaks, four and three games respectively, Brooklyn’s poor defensive play was a key reason. It shouldn’t go unnoticed in both wins which snapped those streaks, the Nets held their opponents to a respective 84 and 87 points.
One reason for the Nets improvement on defense is the stronger stabilization of their frontcourt. Tyler Zeller and Jarrett Allen are doing an admirable job since Timofey Mozgov was taken out of the rotation. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has emerged into one of the league’s best glue-guys.
The addition of Jahlil Okafor to the rotation will further stabilize the frontcourt for Brooklyn. Okafor scored 12 points in 13 minutes against Boston, he also added two blocks. The decision to hold Okafor out until he caught up with his conditioning and the playbook was smart.
Brooklyn still has work to do with improving their overall rebounding numbers. Allen, at 6-foot-11, is their lone shot-blocking threat. But this team thrives on defense when they’re communicating and hustling to the ball. In the loss to Boston, the Nets held the Celtics to 38 points in the paint and 5 of 18 from behind the three-point line.
Brooklyn’s ability to put the ball in the basket has been a strong focal point during its rebuild. It’s their commitment to an improved effort on defense, however, which will keep them on the right track.