The Nets have struggled to defend big men all season, but their issues in the frontcourt reached a low point on Wednesday night against the Pelicans.
DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis imposed their will as Brooklyn had no answer for New Orleans’ twin towers in one of the worst losses of the season. The star duo combined for 60 points, 25 rebounds, 7 assists and 7 blocks on 55-percent shooting. More concerning, however, were the Nets’ issues in stopping the Pelicans' perimeter players. The visitors allowed Jrue Holiday and E'Twaun Moore to get easy looks on the perimeter and they finished with 23 and 20 points, respectively.
Kenny Atkinson joked that he made his team watch 50 clips of video after the Nets lost to the Kings on Dec. 20. He might actually make them watch that much after Wednesday night’s poor showing. The Nets need to regroup when they travel to Miami if they want avoid their ninth loss in 10 games.
Here are Three Observations:
Nets Fail to Offer any Resistance Against Cousins or Davis
Brooklyn was expected to struggle against the Pelicans’ star duo, but the Nets never even appeared to offer any sort of challenge towards either player.
Atkinson and his staff will likely highlight that the team's perimeter players could have helped more in guarding the Pelicans stars. By the end of the first half, Brooklyn had given up 69 points on 57-percent shooting to the Pelicans, and Cousins and Davis had combined for 35 of that output.
Pelicans Guards Take Advantage
This is where Atkinson has every right to be upset with his team. It’s one thing if Cousins and Davis are getting points, as they are arguably the two best big men in the league. It’s another when Holiday and Moore are allowed to shoot 64 percent from the floor.
While the Nets were at a disadvantage in their frontcourt, they actually had the edge in size in their backcourt and small forward positions. The Pelicans essentially play three point guards (Rajon Rondo and Moore) next to their All-Star bigs, but Brooklyn’s perimeter players were ineffective on both sides of the floor. Rondo only had two points, but had a plus-minus of +36 after dishing out a career-high 25 assists (a Nets’ opponent record-high in dimes) to just three turnovers. There was no defensive pressure to stop the Pelicans from running their offense.
Nets Show Late Fight
Brooklyn was down 33 points in the third quarter and it appeared as if the team would waive the white flag. Instead, Atkinson’s team didn’t quit, going on an incredible 19-0 run to finish the quarter. New Orleans’ lead was trimmed to just 14 points before the Pelicans went back to playing out of the low post to rebuild an 15-point lead.
Quincy Acy, Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert deserve credit for sparking that run. Acy, in particular, impressed with his shooting throughout the game as he went 7-for-8 from the field and tied his career-high in three-pointers made (four), finishing with 18. The 27-year-old has had some rough shooting displays in December, but he refuses to let that affect his confidence. If he has an open shot, he’s going to take it.
Stauskas had a career-high in threes (seven), matching the Nets’ franchise record of a bench player from behind the arc. LeVert poured in a career-high 22 points.