I know you must be wondering how I can be writing a hit piece on the Nets the day after they beat the Clippers. Yes the Nets might have won that game last night, and yes I did pick them to win the game, but this team has serious flaws that need to be addressed before the playoffs. But first we just need to appreciate what Kyrie did last night.
I wrote my Kyrie Saga blog last week detailing all my transgressions against him. However all my issues with Kyrie were off the court related. I have nothing but respect for his game. In my opinion he is one of, if not the most fun and jaw dropping player to watch in the league. Kyrie basically willed Brooklyn to victory last night.
Back to Brooklyn being flawed. What we are watching here is the Houston Rockets 2.0. Small ball to the max. No defense to be found, they are just going to hope they can score more points than you on a nightly basis. While this philosophy can work, it is deeply flawed. Mike D'Antoni is only an assistant coach here, but you might as well call this his team. The only reason they think the Houston system is going to work this time around is because they have better talent on the roster in Brooklyn. Harden is a constant, but Russell Westbrook was vastly improved upon with Kyrie and KD. I'm going to call the role players a wash between the two teams because they are basically interchangeable. I will say Jeff Green is a total liability on this team and he is basically filling the role PJ Tucker played for Houston, so this is a downgrade for Brooklyn. Brooklyn's defensive philosophy is completely flawed. Outside of KD, no one in the starting lineup is a good 1-on-1 defender. To compensate for this they play a half assed double team defense on the opposing teams top players. What I mean by this is they will pull the nearest defender off their man and place them halfway between the ball carrier and their man. All this does is provide minimal help to the on-ball defender and leaves the other players man wide open for a shot or cut to the basket. The Clippers took advantage of this hitting 15 threes, shooting 41% from 3. They easily could've shot 50% with how open they were. In which case they would've won the game easily.
This highlight reel shows you exactly what I am talking about. Especially at the 32 second mark. KD is essentially double teaming Kawhi, but not fully committing to it leaving his man wide open in the corner. Kawhi easily could've dished the ball to Batum for an easy 3. This happened time and time again throughout the game. It happens when the primary defender is on a player as well, not just in situations where Kyrie gets switched onto Kawhi and needs help. A major reason Brooklyn has to play this way is because they have no big on the floor to defend the basket. They can switch it up when Deandre Jordan is on the floor, but most of the time Jeff Green is the big. Brooklyn has to block the driving lanes and hope you miss your open shots to win. This lack of a big kills Brooklyn's rebounding ability as well. The Clippers had 11 offensive rebounds to Brooklyn's 6. Tough to win close games and eventually playoff games when you're giving up second chance opportunities like that.
Houston last year averaged 117.8 ppg and gave up 114.8 ppg. Brooklyn this year is at 122.3 ppg and giving up 117.8. The point differential is marginal, so if this system didn't work for Houston last year, I fail to see how it's going to work for Brooklyn this year. That is unless one of Kyrie, Harden, or KD puts up 40 every night and simply just don't let the team lose.