Nets, Suns playing with pace, searching for wins

Pace is playing a key role in how the Brooklyn Nets and Phoenix Suns are performing on offense.

Heading into Saturday game in Phoenix, the Nets and Suns own among the quickest paces in the league.

The Nets are averaging 103.50 possessions per game through their first eight games in new coach Kenny Atkinson's motion offense. The Suns have averaged 104.37 possessions through their first nine games.

En route to losing a combined 61 games under coaches Lionel Hollins and Tony Brown last season, the Nets were 21st in pace at 97.37 possessions per game. Last year, the Suns lost 59 games and averaged 100.9 possessions, which placed them fourth.

It is what teams do with those possessions that ultimately leads to wins.

While the Nets are playing at a high pace, it is other categories in which they are inconsistent. Brooklyn is attempting nearly 34 3-pointers per game but is only making 31.7 percent of those shots.

The difference can be explained in their five losses. In defeats, the Nets are shooting 28.6 percent (51-of-178) from behind the arc as opposed to 37.6 percent (35-of-93) in wins.

In Wednesday's 110-96 loss at the New York Knicks, the Nets were 11 of 33 from 3-point range. Brooklyn held a 67-56 lead after a 3-pointer by Justin Hamilton with 6:16 left but missed 12 of its last 15 attempts from the arc and was outscored 54-29 the rest of the way.

“They did a great job pressuring us and we went away from what we know,” Nets guard Sean Kilpatrick said. “We let them speed us up a little bit. We didn't share the ball like we've been.”

Part of the problem was not having an experienced point guard and a lack of depth at the position.

Jeremy Lin missed the last three and a half games after straining his left hamstring in the first half against Detroit on Nov. 2, and will not be re-evaluated until next week. Isaiah Whitehead has shown some glimpses but did not play Wednesday due to a concussion, and his return will not take place until he completes the league's concussion protocol.

“It seems like every night it's a different point guard and some guys have to play out of position,” Brooklyn forward Trevor Booker said. “So it's tough. At the same time, we have to keep the ball moving and play together.”

When the Nets reach Phoenix, they will face a team coming off an effective defensive showing down the stretch. The Suns are allowing 113 points per game but won for the third time in five games following a 0-4 start by holding the Detroit Pistons to 13 points in the final 9:20 of a 107-100 victory Wednesday.

The win was even more notable since the Suns played a grueling overtime loss Tuesday in Portland and did not land in Phoenix until 3 a.m.

Eric Bledsoe came through in the fourth with 14 of his 21 points to go along with 11 rebounds and eight assists.

“We've been losing these close games, so it's nice to get one, especially at home,” Phoenix reserve forward Jared Dudley said.

Dudley is correct. The average margin of Phoenix's last five games has been five points after the Suns dropped their first four contests by a combined 46 points.

Center Tyson Chandler missed the last two games following the death of his mother and may not play Saturday. Chandler is averaging 13.4 rebounds, 7.4 points on 67.7 percent shooting in seven games.

On Wednesday, Alex Len capably filled in for Chandler by collecting 16 points and 14 rebounds.

The Nets have won seven of the last nine meetings. Bojan Bogdanovic scored 24 points in Brooklyn's 116-106 win in Phoenix on Feb. 25 and Brooklyn recorded a three-point home win Dec. 1.