Nets’ improved defense to be tested by Knicks’ Porzingis
NEW YORK — The overall picture shows some porous defensive numbers for the Brooklyn Nets. A closer look at recent results demonstrates some improvements, though.
Brooklyn’s defense will face a stiff challenge trying to contain Kristaps Porzingis Thursday night when it hosts the New York Knicks.
Brooklyn is allowing 110.6 points per game, which ranks as among the worst in the league. The Nets are a middle of the pack team in opponent’s field goal percentage at 45.3 percent and are above average at defending the 3-pointer at 35.6 percent.
The improvement is appearing in the last eight games since a 127-125 loss to Portland on Nov. 24. The Nets are 5-3 since, allowing 100.9 points per game, 43.1 percent from the field and 32.3 percent from 3-point range, lowering their defensive rating to 108.4, which is slightly below the league average.
“It’s just pride, really. It comes from within,” Brooklyn guard Allen Crabbe said after capping a 3 of 15 showing by hitting the go-ahead 3-pointer with 44 seconds left in Tuesday’s 103-98 win over Washington. “You can’t teach defense, really. It’s all effort. And I feel like guys are buying in. and then when you get stops and get out on the break you open up a lot of things.”
The Nets were able to get enough stops Tuesday. They held the Wizards to 20 points in the fourth and limited Bradley Beal to 3 of 15 shooting after halftime and three points in the final 12 minutes.
“I like where we are defensively,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “I like the process and guys are buying in.”
Atkinson specifically cited Brooklyn’s defense on mid-range shots of late and the numbers reflect positively. Overall, the Nets are allowing 43.2 percent (230 of 533) on shots from 10 to 19 feet, and in their last eight games, that number is 40.3 percent (70 of 176).
The Nets were able to overcome shooting 23 percent from 3-point range Tuesday because of their defense. They held the Wizards to 37.5 percent shooting (12 of 32) on shots from 10 to 19 feet and limited them to 40 percent overall and 4 of 22 from 3-point range.
“I think we’re just coming out with attention to detail that we not might have had before, playing harder and our defense has been a little bit better,” Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie said.
The Nets experienced numerous problems when they were handed a 107-86 loss at New York on Oct. 27. Porzingis scored 30 points on 13 of 24 shooting in 29:23.
That was one of 10 30-point games for Porzingis. He scored 37 on 14 of 26 shooting in Tuesday’s 113-109 overtime win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
New York (14-13) is 8-2 when Porzingis scores at least 30. Two of those games are on the road, where the Knicks are 1-8 and average 97.2 points, and Porzingis shoots 40.2 percent.
“It’s an honor that I’m capable of doing something that has never been done,” Porzingis said. “But that doesn’t help us make the playoffs. We want to make the playoffs and do something big as a team. I’m just playing. It’s pretty cool to get cool stats and so on but I’m just doing what I can to help the team win.”
Porzingis is also coming off the NBA’s first game with at least 30 points, five blocks, 11 rebounds and five 3-pointers.
“This is probably hopefully the tip of the iceberg for him,” New York coach Jeff Hornacek said. “This is only his third year in the league, at 22 years old, to put up these numbers is something else. He can go outside, he can put the ball down, he’s got deep range. He can shoot it from a long way away. When he gets inside, he’s got some jump-hook stuff that he’s been making lately. And again, he’s going to get better and better every year, too. He’s fun to watch out there.”
The Knicks are 14-10 since losing their first three games of the season but also are 4-6 in their last 10. New York is trying to get their third three-game winning streak of the season.
Porzingis is averaging 19.7 points in seven career games against the Nets and the Knicks are 4-3 against Brooklyn when the forward plays.