In each of their first 2 games, the Brooklyn Nets have had solid 1st halves followed by abysmal 3rd quarters. Is Kenny Atkinson’s love of the 3 at fault?
The scenario has played out nearly identically in each of the first two games for the Brooklyn Nets.
The Nets have played strong first halves in each of their opening two contests, only to follow each of those with third quarters that were just dismal.
Brooklyn recovered to win Friday night, coming from behind in the fourth quarter to beat the New York Knicks. They weren’t so fortunate against the Detroit Pistons in their opener on Wednesday.
After the Nets made just 5-of-27 3-pointers against Detroit, coach Kenny Atkinson told Brian Lewis of the New York Post:
"“We didn’t have enough attempts. That’s what I’m mad about. … I think the goal is in the 40s.”"
In the game at Detroit, the Nets led by as much as 12 points in the first half before Detroit came back to tie the game at the break.
Brooklyn had taken 13 3s in the first half, making three of them.
In the third quarter, Brooklyn was outscored 32-25. The Nets strayed further from what had worked for them early in the game — pick-and-rolls out of their 5-out set that created either a driving lane or space for the roll man, combined with quick ball movement to create open shots.
In the third quarter, however, the offense stagnated on the perimeter, as the team seemed intent on keeping the ball outside the arc. Brooklyn fired up seven 3-point attempts in that third quarter, most of them contested and all but one of them off the mark.
In the fourth quarter, Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie got the penetration game moving again and the Nets erased a 13-point deficit to lead twice in the late going before eventually going down to a 103-100 defeat.
Fast forward to Friday night at home against the Knicks. The Nets led by as much as 12 points in the second period before the Knicks closed the gap a bit to send the game to intermission with Brooklyn holding a 57-50 lead.
The Nets, after hitting 6-of-14 from deep in the first half, getting good, open looks from solid ball movement, came out after halftime looking stale and stagnant again.
Joe Harris hit an open 3. So did D’Angelo Russell. But the Nets were focused on taking the deep shot, so much so they were forcing things — both 3-point shots and the passes to attempt to set them up.
Brooklyn went 2-for-8 from deep in the period and turned the ball over seven times. New York stormed back to lead by as much as five before settling for a 76-74 edge heading into the fourth quarter.
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In the fourth quarter, LeVert and Russell started penetrating more, creating shots or getting to the free-throw line. The Nets hit 4-of-8 from deep in the fourth and all but a couple of those shots were open and in rhythm, rather than being forced over contesting defenders.
I mean, I get it — Atkinson’s offense is predicated on using the 3-pointer as a weapon. Three is more than two, shooting 33 percent from 3-point range is the same scoring total as hitting half of your shots from 2. Right, fine, great.
But the Nets aren’t blessed with a lot of great 3-point shooters. Harris is very good. Allen Crabbe can be very good and should improve as he recovers more from his injured ankle.
But the rest of the bunch only qualifies as average, occasionally streaky or just plain inconsistent.
There are system coaches and then there are coaches who adapt systems to fit the skill sets of their players.
As much as I had hoped Atkinson would prove to be the latter, it’s looking more and more as if he’s in that first group.
But sometimes “shoot more 3s” creates more problems than it solves. It’s been fairly evident twice in two games already this season.