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Even with superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving fronting their lineup on a regular basis, the Nets will not be immune to poor shooting nights.
Their home loss Friday to the Hawks was one of those examples, and it’s why first-year coach Steve Nash spent Saturday preaching defensive effort in a film session in lieu of practice before Sunday night’s game against the Wizards at Barclays Center.
“We recognized defensively, a lot of miscommunications. Lack of talk. Missing assignments. Simple stuff. Fundamental stuff,” Nash said Saturday on a Zoom call. “So [it’s] just cleaning that up.
“Without giving out Chapter 1 in Nets basketball defense, we’ve just slipped a little. … [We’re] trying to be proactive with our principles, so some of that just takes time. And it’s a process, so we’re just going to have to stick with it.”
The Nets (3-3) won their first two games this season via blowouts, holding both the Warriors and Celtics below 100 points. In the four games since then, the Nets have allowed an average of 119.3 points and have lost three times.
In splitting the last two against the Hawks, the Nets allowed Atlanta to shoot 46.9 percent from the floor (90-for-192) and 41.0 percent (34-for-83) from 3-point range. The Hawks also outrebounded the Nets 102-85.
“Rebounding, that’s going to be a process all year for us,” Nash said. “It’s not a natural inclination for our lineups to be strong rebounding lineups, so we’re going to have to gang rebound. We’re going to have to make some habits and be greedy down there.”
Nash identified matching up defensively in transition, knowing when to switch against pick-and-roll sets and supporting each other positionally as specific areas in which the Nets need to improve.
Durant and veteran forward Jeff Green also stressed after Friday’s loss the importance of not deviating from those defensive principles when shots aren’t falling. The Nets missed 30 of 37 attempts from 3-point range Friday night — including a 2-for-11 showing from beyond the arc by Irving, who finished 6-for-21 overall from the floor.
“It’s definitely tough to build it, but that’s our job right now. That’s what we’re called to do,” guard Caris LeVert said Saturday when asked about the Nets’ defensive intensity. “We watch a lot of film as a group and individually. That’s definitely a focal point right now that we’re looking at each and every day, because we know that the offense is going to be there.
“Especially with a new team, new guys out there, still figuring out chemistry, we know defense is going to get us over the top. I think, as a collective, we all just have to be better.”
LeVert, who is averaging 14.3 points over 26.3 minutes per game off the bench, added that “not a lot of people think of defense as a skill,” but as “effort and trying hard … and thinking” at that end of the floor.
“Well, we expect effort. That should be non-negotiable,” Nash said. “So it’s really about being attuned to our assignments, our principles, our schemes. We obviously took a step back against Atlanta, so we have to continue to dig deep and get better. We’re going to face some of these teams in this league that are going to make it hard on you.
“As a young team without that common experience, I think it’s important that we just stick with it. Stick with it and not lose confidence in our schemes or start to freelance or make it up. We’ve had a lot of success when we stick to it.”