Bucks 97, Nets 88
The Brooklyn Nets have now lost four in a row, the last three of which were at home against good teams that they nevertheless should compete with and beat. Sure, Brook Lopez has been hurt, but the Nets' problem recently is defense, which has historically not been Lopez's strength. They gave up 117 points to the Oklahoma City Thunder, 109 to the Golden State Warriors and 75 in three quarters to the Milwaukee Bucks before clamping down a bit in the fourth quarter.
In this game specifically, the Nets' problem was obvious. If you want to defeat the Bucks, you have to contain Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis in pick and roll. Keep them to the perimeter, and they will fire up errant shots. Let them turn the corner and get into the paint, and they will do a lot of damage. The Nets' healthy big men consistently let Ellis and Jennings get past them in their pick-and-roll coverages, which opened up so many avenues for the Bucks to score. In a couple cases, they even stuck to cold-shooting Ersan Ilyasova, practically ushering Ellis and Jennings to the basket.
We'll provide one example from each of the Nets' bigs. First, Reggie Evans. On this play, Jennings and Ilyasova run a high pick and roll going to Jennings' strong hand. Notice what Evans does in these screenshots.
It's not really clear why Evans thinks the right play is to stay with Ilyasova. Perhaps he thinks C.J. Watson is closer to fighting over Ilyasova's screen than he is. Perhaps he has forgotten that Ilyasova is shooting 39 percent from the field and 26 percent from three-point range. In any event, Jennings gets a wide-open lane to eventually shoot a floater, and the Nets' defense is compromised.
Next, let's talk about Kris Humphries. Humphries lost his starting spot for this game, presumably because of mistakes like this one. Watch how he too stays with Ilyasova instead of cutting off Jennings' path to the basket.
Jennings hit an awkward runner on this shot, but he can do that. The issue is that he was even able to break down the defense in the first place.
Finally, we must bash Andray Blatche. Blatche has been a revelation for the Nets this season given his price tag, but this play where he let Marquis Daniels of all people dribble down the lane for a layup was inexcusable.
I'm not quite sure what Blatche was thinking here, but Daniels should not be shooting any layups at this point in his career.
The breakdowns were so rampant that you almost wonder if coach Avery Johnson instructed his big men to defend the pick and roll this way for some reason. I doubt that, considering Johnson's defensive pedigree, but you never know.
The more likely scenario is that the Nets' big men are very bad pick-and-roll defenders, and that must change if the Nets are to compete in the Eastern Conference.
TomZilla has a whole post on the Lakers' lagging defense, so I won't steal his thunder. I will instead just point out this one transition defense sequence in the very first minute of the game. Take a guess as to which of the three Lakers players in front of Mo Williams prevented him from getting to the basket.
If you guessed none, you are correct. This is in the first minute of the game, mind you.
This was a fantastic game. The Nuggets are so close to breaking through, but they keep falling just short down the stretch. This game featured yet another mind-boggling Ty Lawson turnover in the final minute to seal their fate. Meanwhile, the Knicks squeezed just enough out of isolating Carmelo Anthony in tough situations to hang on for the win.
The key stretch, though, was at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Thanks to some great transition play, the Nuggets held an eight-point lead. Over the next few minutes, JaVale McGee did the following things.
- Tried to cross over Tyson Chandler at the top of the key to set up an 18-footer. Missed badly.
- Committed an over-the-back foul going for the rebound.
- Caught a pick-and-roll pass from Ty Lawson, spun away from the hoop, tried a fadeaway, got stripped and flailed his arms out as he lost the ball to J.R. Smith.
- Tried to grab a defensive rebound with one hand, stumbled, lost control and let the ball go out of bounds.
- Went for a blocked shot on Jason Kidd that he absolutely didn't need to go for, allowing Kidd to slip a pass to Chandler for a dunk.
- Went for another block on Ronnie Brewer and committed a foul when Kenneth Faried was right there as well to block the shot.