Nets need better defense against revamped Hawks (Oct 22, 2017)

October 21, 2017

NEW YORK -- Based on early results, offense is not a problem for the Brooklyn Nets. As for defense, that's another story.

The Nets allowed 140 points in their season opener at Indiana on Wednesday and then 121 against Orlando on Friday. They are hoping their defense can improve Sunday afternoon when they host the Atlanta Hawks.

Brooklyn ranked 29th in points allowed at 112.5 while placing 23rd in defensive rating at 110.7 last season, when it lost 62 games. The Nets, after splitting their first two games, are allowing 130.5 points with a defensive rating of 118.3.

"We have a long way to go," Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson said. "We made a lot of mistakes, elementary mistakes. So, this will be another good teaching film for us for our guys to watch this because we have a long, long way to go."

This season marks the first time in franchise history the Nets allowed at least 120 points in their first two games. They have allowed 120 points or more 21 times since Atkinson took over before last season.

With Friday's 126-121 win, Brooklyn improved to 2-19 when it allows 120 points under Atkinson. It managed to get a win because it produced an offense that shot 50 percent, placed six in double figures and had D'Angelo Russell making plays down the stretch.

Over the final 4:52, Russell made a pair of layups and hit a foul-line jumper. He, along with DeMarre Carroll and reserve Trevor Booker, led the Nets with 17 points apiece.

It was Russell's ability to make those plays that made the Nets better equipped to handle Jeremy Lin's season-ending knee injury. It was also Russell's plays that negated some of the disappointment about sub-par defense.

"He said he got ice in his veins and he showed it tonight," said Booker, who produced double-doubles in the first two games.

Like the Nets, the Hawks also experienced mixed results in their first two games with a new roster.

The Hawks last faced the Nets on April 2 in Brooklyn, and four players who played in their 91-82 loss are still on the team. Dennis Schroder, Ersan Ilyasova, Kent Bazemore and Mike Muscala are remaining from a team that traded Dwight Howard and lost Paul Millsap and Tim Hardaway in free agency.

After opening the season by shooting 51 percent in a 117-111 win at Dallas, the Hawks blew a 20-point lead in Friday's 109-91 loss at Charlotte.

"It's just growing pains, man," Bazemore said. "Learning how to continue to do the things that get us those kinds of leads. It's encouraging to see we can play a great style of basketball and build a lead against a very seasoned team. It's something we've got to learn from."

Atlanta was outscored 60-35 after halftime and 89-51 after taking a 20-point lead in the second quarter. The Hawks shot 31 percent after halftime, missed 14 of 17 3-pointers and were outrebounded 35-23.

"We had open shots," Schroder said. "Open floaters, open shots, pull-up jumpers, but we didn't make them. It's a part of basketball. Sometimes you make them and sometimes you miss them. Tonight, we missed them in the second half."

Schroder has totaled 53 points in his first two games after getting 25 Friday. He was 7-of-13 from the field in the second half while the rest of the team was 8-of-36.

Both teams are coming off big nights by opposing centers. The Nets allowed Orlando's Nikola Vucevic to total 41 points and 12 rebounds with six 3-pointers, while Atlanta allowed Howard to get 20 and 15.

The teams split four meetings last season, with the winning team not scoring more than 117 points. Brooklyn allowed 92 and 82 points in two wins over the Hawks within a week of each other late in the season.