The Brooklyn Nets are cascading back down to earth
They are who we thought they weren't.
It might be too early to worry about the new-look Brooklyn Nets, but after their past three games – all losses – the best way to describe their performance is worrisome.
While the Nets still sit third in the Eastern Conference standings, their three-game losing streak is tied for the second-longest in the NBA this season.
And how they've lost those games has to be concerning for Brooklyn supporters.
In the three losses – a 123-117 home loss to Toronto on Feb. 5, a 124-108 road loss to Philadelphia on Feb. 6 and a 122-111 road loss to Detroit on Tuesday – the Nets have given up an average of 123 points per game, and their overall average of 118.4 points surrendered per contest is second-worst in the league, trailing only that of the Washington Wizards (120.1).
Speaking of the Wizards, the Nets fell at Washington 149-146 on Jan. 31, and dating back to that game, Brooklyn has lost four of its past five, with its only win coming Feb. 2 against the LA Clippers.
What's going on in Brooklyn?
In Shannon Sharpe's estimation, as has been the discussion all season, it all comes down to defense.
On Jan. 20, Sexton, the Cleveland Cavaliers' guard, scored a career-best 42 points in a 147-135 double-overtime win over Brooklyn.
On Tuesday, Detroit forward Grant tied his career high with 32 points in the Pistons' 11-point win over the Nets.
In the eyes of former NBA center Kendrick Perkins, it's deeper than defense.
"They can't stop a nosebleed. Their defense is horrible. But you can watch all the schemes, all the film – it has to come from within. If we were talking about a group of young guys, it would be a different story. We're talking about guys that have won at this level. ... When I look at it, I'm looking at the lack of accountability. ...There's a lack of accountability in that locker room."
Nowhere have the Nets' defensive struggles been on display more than against the Cavaliers and Pistons, two teams that average 109.0 and 104.0 points per game, respectively.
Against Brooklyn, Cleveland scored its most points of the season (147), and Detroit scored its second-most (122).
Offensively, of course, the Nets remain one of the best teams in the league, putting up 121.1 points per game, second only to Milwaukee's 121.3 points per night. Brooklyn leads the NBA in field goal percentage (49.8%), is fourth in 3-point percentage (39.8%) and is fifth in assists per game (27.0).
James Harden leads the NBA in assists per night, at 11.3, and on Tuesday against Detroit, he put up 24 points on 8-of-14 shooting to go with 12 dimes.
However, with superstar forward Kevin Durant out of the lineup for the better part of the past three games – he played 19 minutes against Toronto before being removed from the game because of COVID-19 protocol – Brooklyn's offense hasn't flowed as smoothly, particularly when it comes to third superstar Kyrie Irving.
Irving missed the Nets' game against the Sixers, and against the Raptors and Pistons, he connected on 18 of 40 shot attempts, including shooting 12-for-28 from the field for 27 points Tuesday.
Still, in Skip Bayless' estimation, the Nets will hit their stride once Durant returns to the lineup and the Brooklyn "Big 3" can create a rhythm – and once they get their egos out of the way.
Next up for Brooklyn is the Indiana Pacers – also losers of three straight – on Wednesday. The Nets will once again be without Durant.
Let's see if they can net a result better than a fourth straight loss.