The Nets are beginning to understand what works for them.
Brooklyn is on a two-game win streak and heading towards the back-to-back portion of their west coast trip. They kicked off the trip with a 104-82 win over the Phoenix Suns, Tuesday night.
What’s next on the agenda won’t be easy. They’ll travel to the Mile-High City and face the surprising Denver Nuggets, Friday night. Brooklyn will then head to the bay area for a matchup with the defending champions, the Golden State Warriors.
The Suns, at 2-8, aren’t anywhere close to the level of competition Brooklyn’s about to encounter. It’s encouraging, however, to watch their squad beat a they’re supposed to. This is an indication of growth for head coach Kenny Atkinson’s crew.
Before the season, Atkinson stressed better team defense as a key goal for his team to meet. And in their last two games, both wins, the Nets excelled on the defensive side of the court.
This past Sunday, the Philadelphia 76ers committed 28 turnovers, most in the NBA this season, leading to 39 points for the Nets. Brooklyn then went into Phoenix and were able to get the Suns to cough it up 20 times, leading to 21 points. In both wins, the Nets were active in the passing lanes and keeping pressure on the ball handler.
It may have been an off night for the Sixers. The Suns are struggling and trying to find their way through another rebuilding year. But Brooklyn’s intensity and mentality on defense was still impressive.
The Nets are also becoming more formidable with their offensive production around the basket. They outscored Phoenix, 54-30, on points in the paint. This season they’re averaging 50.4 points per game in the paint, good enough for ninth in the NBA. This is noteworthy improvement from last season’s team average of 43.8.
When Brooklyn gets a turnover they’re consistently finding ways to convert them into points. A great deal of this is from not settling for the three-point shot. They’re instead putting the ball on the floor and getting to the basket. The high-percentage shot will always work.
Brooklyn still loves to shoot the three-point shot, but knowing they can get points in other ways doesn’t hurt. And there’s been a handful of games so far this season where the 3-ball didn’t drop for them.
The league is in the midst of an offensive explosion. Teams are routinely scoring over 100 points per game. To be able to hold a team under 90 points in today’s NBA shouldn’t go overlooked. No matter how bad that team’s record is.
The Nets, at 5-6 are off to their best 11-game start since the 2012-2013 season. Caris LeVert is emerging as one of the NBA’s rising stars. Jarrett Allen is continuing his overall development into one of the better young big men in the game. Spencer Dinwiddie has become the heart and soul of the team. Newcomers Ed Davis and Jared Dudley, meanwhile have brought experience and toughness to the front court and locker room.
The Nets still have legitimate concerns. D’Angelo Russell has to remain aggressive on both ends of the court. But Allen Crabbe’s shooting woes are becoming an issue Atkinson will need to confront sooner than later.
From an overall perspective, the team is playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played.
For all their hype and ability to light up a scoreboard, the Golden State Warriors are still all about team defense and ball movement designed to find the open shot. These are the basic fundamentals of basketball, tried and true.
If the Nets remain consistent with their defensive mentality and approach on offense, the winning will continue.