3. Nets defense solid, but not solid enough
The Brooklyn Nets were able to dig their way back from a 13-point deficit in the first quarter in part because of their tremendous defensive effort in the second quarter.
Brooklyn held the Orlando Magic to just 6-of-22 shooting and Orlando was just 1-of-7 from 3-point range while being outscored 27-18 as the Nets surged into a 48-44 halftime lead.
But the defense could not help the Nets in the third quarter, when their seven turnovers turned into 14 points for the Magic, who were 13-for-21 overall and 4-for-7 from deep with a lot of uncontested looks coming from their five steals.
Brooklyn was able to clamp things back down in the fourth quarter, holding the Magic to 11-for-25 shooting, but the Nets managed to make just 7-of-24 themselves and were unable to get any closer than five points over the final 12 minutes of the game.
During their 11-4 month of January, Brooklyn’s defense was stellar. The Nets had a defensive rating of 106.9 in the month, fourth-best in the NBA, and coupled that with a 110.6 offensive rating that ranked 14th.
Their defensive efficiency against Orlando was terrific, allowing 96.2 points per 100 possessions, but their 84.0 offensive rating won’t be good enough to beat anyone.
That the Nets have come far enough in their development to be able to lean on their defense is a major shift from the last two seasons, when Brooklyn ranked 21st in defensive rating in 2017-18 at 109.6 and was 23rd the previous year at 110.1.
But without the offense holding up its end, those solid defensive outings will end up going to waste, such as it did on Saturday.