Even in a loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday, the Brooklyn Nets took some positives away, particularly the hot shooting of Joe Harris.
The Brooklyn Nets lost for the second time in their last three games, dropping a 117-114 decision to the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center Thursday night, but might have gotten sharp-shooter Joe Harris back on track in the process.
Harris scored 18 points for the Nets on 7-of-10 shooting while knocking down 3-of-5 from 3-point range. Two of those three deep balls came on consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter to give Brooklyn its last two leads.
Harris entered play on Thursday mired in a bit of a shooting slump, as he had gone just 10-for-30 (33.3 percent) overall and only 5-of-17 (29.4 percent) from 3-point land over his last three games.
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Thursday’s shooting performance was more like what has become normal this season for Harris, who is third in the NBA with a 46.2 percent rate from deep and has made 49.4 percent overall.
Even though Harris was the most efficient finisher on drives last season in the NBA, there is still a misconception that he is some sort of finesse player.
The reality is that Harris is so effective when he drives a close-out by a defender because not only is he creative as a finisher, but he’s also strong.
Harris isn’t finishing as effectively this season as he did in 2017-18, as he is hitting 47.3 percent of his shots off the drive.
Last season, he made 62.7 percent of 134 attempts while driving.
Because teams are more aware of his 3-point shooting, he’s been driving more regularly this season, with 337 drives and 146 shot attempts in just 48 games this season after posting his 134 attempts on 349 drives in 77 games a season ago.
But his strength off the drive was on full display against the Spurs.
Harris took the contact from the 6-foot-11, 260-pound LaMarcus Aldridge, hung in the air long enough to gather himself and finished for a three-point play.
The mistake is thinking Harris is a small player. He’s 6-foot-6 and 218 pounds and has done considerable work the last several offseasons to improve his strength in order to make plays such as the one above.
Harris is a primary option in the Brooklyn offense, averaging 9.9 shots per game — trailing only the two-headed point guard combination of D’Angelo Russell (17.5) and Spencer Dinwiddie (12.2) and injured swingman Caris LeVert (14.6) on the season.
The first option with Harris is to spring him off screens at the 3-point line, such as on his last 3-pointer of the night on Thursday. The quickness with which Harris sets his feet and squares his shoulders is what makes him such a special shooter.
Given how much of his time is spent running off screens, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Harris is the Nets’ team leader, averaging 2.41 miles per game on the run.
It was encouraging to see Harris lock back in after a few games where he had been a bit off target. His shooting opens up a lot of other doors for the Nets on offense, because when Harris is rolling, opposing defenses have to roll their coverage to account for him on every possession.