Slipping Nets look to stop slide vs. Celtics
NEW YORK — When a defense slips significantly, coaches frequently refer to it as “slippage.”
Lately, the Brooklyn Nets have used the term frequently when discussing their many defensive ailments.
Practice time has been limited but the Nets will have had two days to see if drills carry over into a game setting Wednesday night when they host the Boston Celtics. Brooklyn is mired in a four-game losing streak.
“We're plugging holes right now defensively, leaking in different places,'” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “We're going to have to regroup, get some practice time, get some film time, get our principles back. I keep talking about slippage. We've slipped.”
Brooklyn is allowing 113.3 points per game overall but in this skid, the Nets have allowed 126.2 points per contest and no fewer than 27 points in the 12 quarters. Aside from the points, the Nets allowed opponents to shoot at least 50 percent in three of those games and are among the worst defensive teams in shooting percentage and other areas.
“It's been consistent for the past four games. It's just different teams, but we've been the same,'' center Brook Lopez said. “A lot of it's the same. It's not any one person, glaringly obvious. It's just team-wide, whatever it is. I don't think you can fault our effort of energy. … It's a team-wide situation we need to figure out.”
The slippage has resulted in Brooklyn allowing at least 120 points in four straight games for the fifth time in its NBA history. The last occurrence came Jan. 30-Feb. 4, 1990 when the New Jersey Nets allowed an average of 123 points in losses at Phoenix, Denver, Golden State and the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Nets also have allowed 120 points or more in five games this season. It is two shy of last year's total when the Nets ranked 24th in points allowed per game and 29th in defensive rating and one shy of the 2014-15 total, though three of those games reached overtime.
Compounding the sub-par defense is inconsistent offense.
While the Nets are among the leaders in possessions (102.2) per game, they have an offensive rating (104.1) that is in the bottom 10th of the league. It is because the Nets are shooting 44 percent and 32.5 percent from 3-point range, numbers that place them in the bottom third of the league.
The latest inconsistency on offense occurred during Sunday's 129-109 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. Lopez made his first seven shots when the Nets scored 64 points in the first half but Brooklyn shot 26 percent in the second half.
The Celtics have won two in a row after rallying from 15 down for Monday's 99-93 victory at Minnesota.
Isaiah Thomas scored 20 points for the 13th time by totaling nine of his 29 in the final five minutes. Al Horford scored 20 points after getting the game-winner Saturday at Detroit and has 38 points since returning from missing nine games with a concussion.
The Celtics lost five times in Horford's absence but it gave coach Brad Stevens an opportunity to see his depth. It was on display Monday when the Celtics received 16 of their 31 bench points in the fourth quarter.
Boston scored 17 straight points to open the fourth when reserve Terry Rozier scored eight of his 12 points.
“When we get in, we got to either pick up where the first team left off or we got to even play harder than that,” Rozier said. “We had a team meeting not too long ago and that's one of the things we said. When we got in there, we just play hard. A lot of credit goes to Al, too, working hard. Just a lot of things, everything worked in our favor once we played hard.”
The one negative from Monday was Jae Crowder sitting out the final 16 minutes with left ankle pain. It is the same injury that kept him out for eight games and he might sit out Wednesday. If Crowder sits, Marcus Smart could get the start.
Smart averaged 10 points in Crowder's place and also was credited for sparking Boston's comeback by calling the team out for lack of effort at the end of the third.
“Really it all started at the end of the third, Marcus Smart calling out all of us,” Horford told reporters.
The Celtics took the first meeting on Oct. 26 in Boston when Thomas had 25 and nine in a 122-117 win. Boston has won six of the last nine meetings.