BOSTON – Even before Nets lost Kyrie Irving, their offseason moves showed they wanted to fix last season’s leaky defense. All their focus since then showed that they knew they had no choice but to do just that.
The Nets entered Wednesday’s game against the Celtics as a top-10 unit in all major defensive categories, and top 5 in some. And that is thanks to a total overhaul, not only in terms of staff, but also mindset and approach.
Adding the likes of forwards DeAndre ‘Bembry and James Johnson, along with the annoying Patty Mills, did not create a lot of headlines. But they made the Nets better.
“Yeah, some guys have come in and claimed ourselves,” Bembry said. “Of course Bruce Brown has been [out] a couple of games; but he’s been very active in that starting lineup, so he started like that, Kevin [Durant], James [Harden] When we lock in, I think it’s just the beginning for us. Then we have guys like myself, James Johnson, Patty who come in and are aggressive.
“So it’s just more about us being assertive and aggressive. It’s obvious that one of the keys they wanted to bring in last summer was some defensive guys and being aggressive. So there are some of the guys who are already here and some of the new guys [coming] together and just be more confident. “
The Nets came in on Wednesday as third in the NBA in field-goal defense (42.8 percent) and eighth in Defensive Rating (104.7).
It is a quantum leap for a team that was ranked 22nd in the Defensive Rating last season. Part of that is Net’s desperation to know that they can not surpass everyone. But it’s also a schematic adjustment by Steve Nash.
“We changed our coverage a bit,” Durant said.
Or really, have not changed. Let’s explain.
Last season, the Nets got married by changing 1-to-5, but now they have gone for more drip coverage. It not only fits center LaMarcus Aldridge, but has also worked well with Mills, Brown and Jevon Carter.
“Yes, it was good for us,” said Bembry. “We know who we are defensively now: letting go and making it harder for their guards to give it to the big ones. That’s what we’re trying to do, especially we have Blake [Griffin] at 5, and he guards guys who are much bigger than him and much more athletic and lobbying threats. So just cutting off some of the big ones helps us a lot.
“And obviously we’re trying to stay, keep our guards on guard and try to make it tough for their guards and get them to shoot mid-range and floats instead of just letting them run around; then we would switch [and] now they have the kind of matchup they want … So it’s worked for us, and like I said, pretty much our identity now and we’re pretty comfortable with that. “
Both Mills and Carter are listed on 6-foot-1 and can have height disadvantages on switches, exactly the kind that the Celtics love to use. But that duo, along with Brown, have the ability to fight their way through screens and make the switch less necessary.
And while the Nets are still vulnerable on the boards due to their small lineup, they managed to get into Wednesday’s game seventh in defensive rebounds by trying to keep their small guards away from the opponents’ big ones.
“Definitely. Last year was a different kind of defensive team, and this year we know who we want to be defensive,” says Bembry. change all the lineups they did last year.
“It’s more so that we defensively do not change 1-to-5 and that our smaller guards try to box out big ones. We only keep our big ones on the big one, so we can have a better opportunity to take the return.… It has worked for us to just try to hold on to our man defensively, and then collectively just go down here and take the rebound, hit a body and some of the less detailed things. ”
The devil is in the details, and for the Nets it is apparently also the defense.