Brooklyn Nets must solve spacing issues to come back vs. Chicago Bulls

Jonathan Daniel

The Brooklyn Nets are down 2-1 in their series against the Chicago Bulls because they are consistently playing 3-on-5 offensively. It's time for P.J. Carlesimo to avoid playing Reggie Evans and Gerald Wallace at the same time.

Coaches, no matter what year, what team and what series, are historically reluctant to make major rotation adjustments in the middle of an NBA Playoff series. It's understandable to some degree, especially for the team with the better record. You experienced a lot of regular-season success playing the guys you have in the way you've set it up, so why change that just because a little adversity strikes? Trying to alter too much at once can cause a lot of chaos.

But at the same time, we've seen rotation adjustments win series. The Dallas Mavericks wouldn't have defeated the Miami Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals unless Rick Carlisle inserted J.J. Barea into the starting lineup. The Golden State Warriors wouldn't have won Game 2 in Denver on Tuesday if it weren't for Mark Jackson's decision to ditch his team's normal style of play and start Harrison Barnes at power forward in a small lineup. Rotation adjustments often work more than many coaches think.

This is the predicament Brooklyn Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo is in following his team's 79-76 Game 3 loss to the Chicago Bulls. His team won lots of games playing Gerald Wallace and Reggie Evans at the same time, but it's just not working in this series. Their inability to produce offense is forcing Brooklyn to play 3-on-5 offensively. It's time for Carlesimo to adjust his rotation to add more offensive threats on the floor and split Wallace and Evans up as much as possible.

There are so many problems that result when you pair Evans with Wallace. Here are just a few examples from Game 3.

In Evans' case, he's incapable of doing anything but grab offensive rebounds -- and he isn't even doing that in this series. His screen-setting can be a strength against other teams, but with the way the Bulls are ignoring him, that's been rendered ineffective.

The Bulls delighted in Evans' presence on the floor because it allowed them to load up against Brooklyn's primary play. In this example, Carlos Boozer leaves Evans wide open underneath the hoop to prevent Brooklyn from easily isolating Joe Johnson on the left wing.

Screen_shot_2013-04-26_at_9

Evans tries to compensate by screening for Brook Lopez, but that makes things worse. Joakim Noah can now guard two people at once.

Screen_shot_2013-04-26_at_9

Eventually, Lopez breaks free in the middle for an instant, and as he catches the ball, four Bulls surround him. This is normally a good thing for a team! Evans is now wide open underneath the hoop!

Screen_shot_2013-04-26_at_9

But ... the Bulls recover, Lopez doesn't think to pass it soon enough because it's Evans, and the Nets turn it over.

Screen_shot_2013-04-26_at_9

If Brooklyn can't score in this situation, why would anyone bother guarding Evans? Here's the play in real time.


Here's another situation where the Bulls pay Evans no mind underneath the basket. Chicago triple-teams Deron Williams coming off a screen, forcing him to give it up. Normally, someone's open when a player is being triple-teamed, and that is indeed the case here.

However, notice how Boozer has already started to rotate to Lopez, even though it would again leave Evans open underneath the basket. That's how little the Bulls respect Evans.

Screen_shot_2013-04-26_at_10

Evans ends up hurting the Nets' spacing by cutting too close to Lopez for a legitimate pass to be made, and Lopez misses a contested layup.

Screen_shot_2013-04-26_at_10

Screen_shot_2013-04-26_at_10

Here's the play in real time.


At this point, Wallace isn't much more of a threat than Evans. The Bulls have consistently left Wallace open from the perimeter since Game 1, and Wallace has not done anything to make them regret their decision.

This middle isolation is the best of several examples of Chicago's lack of respect for Wallace in Game 3. The Nets will get the ball to Johnson at the free-throw line against Jimmy Butler. Normally, this is an ideal spot for an isolation, because the man with the ball can pick out any open shooter he wants with an easy pass. But in the Nets' case, Wallace is not respected as a "shooter," allowing Luol Deng to cheat and cut off the lane.

Screen_shot_2013-04-26_at_9

As Johnson pushes Butler deeper into the paint, Deng helps further off Wallace. Making matters worse, Andray Blatche is situated on the same side as Wallace, allowing Nazr Mohammed to guard two players by himself.

Screen_shot_2013-04-26_at_9

Eventually, Johnson will turn to his right in an attempt to shoot over Butler. As that happens, Deng decides to leave Wallace open completely to bother Johnson's move.

Screen_shot_2013-04-26_at_9

Johnson has no choice but to pass to Wallace and hope for the best. The best does not come, as Wallace bricks another open three.

Screen_shot_2013-04-26_at_9

Here's the play in real time.


****

Consider how little respect the Bulls paid to Wallace and Evans individually. Now, consider what happens when little attention is paid to both of them on the same possession.

For example, here's a play where a Williams isolation is swallowed up by the overloading Bulls' defense.

Screen_shot_2013-04-26_at_9

The Bulls bring Boozer (Evans' man) to trap Williams aggressively, Deng (Wallace's man) to cut off Lopez and Mohammed to guard a zone. They again leave Evans open underneath the basket and don't bother to defend Wallace at all on the opposite side.

As we roll forward, Evans, determined to do anything possible to avoid being involved in the play, runs in front of Lopez's path, further messing up the spacing.

Screen_shot_2013-04-26_at_9

Lopez cuts to the basket, but this only sets up the next round of Bulls rotations. This time, Boozer traps Williams even more aggressively, Mohammed remains in his zone, Butler half-heartedly deals with whatever the threat of Evans is while also guarding Johnson, and Deng leaves Wallace all alone to help on Lopez.

Screen_shot_2013-04-26_at_9

Williams' only pass is to Evans away from the basket, and with so little time on the shot clock, Evans has to do this.

Screen_shot_2013-04-26_at_9

You'll never believe this, but Evans missed the jumper. Here's the play in real time.


Here's one final example where the presence of Wallace and Evans together forces Williams into a difficult shot. The Nets are running a post play for Lopez, and Evans is supposed to set it up with a strong cross-screen like in many of these plays. But because Evans is not an offensive threat, Boozer pays no attention to the screen and simply stands in the passing lane the Nets are hoping to create.

Screen_shot_2013-04-26_at_10

Boozer ends up fronting Lopez in the post, which works because Evans is right next to Lopez, pulling Noah in to protect against the lob.

Screen_shot_2013-04-26_at_10

The ball eventually gets thrown out to Williams, who will try to make a one-on-one move on Kirk Hinrich. His efforts are thwarted, though, because Deng will cheat off Wallace on the left wing to plug dribble penetration.

Screen_shot_2013-04-26_at_10

Deng's decision forces Williams to take a tough runner that misses.

Screen_shot_2013-04-26_at_10

Here's the play in real time:


****

The Nets don't have the deepest bench in the world, but they simply cannot keep playing Wallace and Evans together anymore. One solution: start C.J. Watson over either Wallace (in a three-guard lineup) or Evans (moving Wallace to power forward). Another is to play MarShon Brooks more, especially after he helped bring the Nets to the brink of a comeback in Game 3. Keith Bogans could also merit more minutes because he can at least hit an open three, unlike Wallace or Evans.

But something has to change if the Nets are to come back in this series. Carlesimo may be reluctant to give up size on the defensive end, but his offense is in such bad shape that the tradeoff is necessary. If I were Carlesimo, I wouldn't play Evans and Wallace together for another minute this series.

More from SB Nation:

LeBron's mad he didn't win DPOY

Z-Bo strikes back, and the Grizzlies stay alive

Thursday's NBA action in GIFs

10 reasons why the Celtics still have a chance

What the 2011 NBA draft can teach us about 2013's class

Derrick Rose drama reaches breaking point

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.