Defense Fortifies Brooklyn Nets Through Four Straight Wins
Nets have league's stingiest defense during their win streak
OKLAHOMA CITY — In winning their fourth straight game on Monday night, the Brooklyn Nets took their defensive game to a new level.
The 75 points Brooklyn allowed by the Detroit Pistons were a season low for a Nets opponent, and the lowest the franchise his given up since a 70-point game in December 2014. Detroit's 27.8 field goal percentage was also the lowest by any NBA team in a game since November 2015.
"We're not a top 10 defensive team, but we're starting to get 14, 13 area, so moving up," said Nets coach Kenny Atkinson before the game. "So the defense has been good just all around. Guys are playing well defensively. I like our schemes. Mixing in the zone has helped just to give us a variety. We'll continue on with what we've been doing."
The Nets are up to No. 13 in the NBA in defensive rating after being No. 18 just 10 days ago. That's after four games in which they've posted a defensive rating of 92.3, the best in the league. During the same span, they've limited opponents to 27.8 percent shooting from 3-point range, also a league-best, while outrebounding opponents 51.3 to 47.3.
At the beginning of this stretch, the Nets moved Allen Crabbe and Rodions Kurucs into the starting lineup, asking the 6-foot-9, 210-pound rookie to guard the power forward spot. In the first game with that alignment, the Nets held the Dallas Mavericks to 88 points.
"What I do see is Rodi surprising us," said Atkinson. "You worry about the girth and strength at that position and Blake Griffin and John Collins and you look at the 4s in this league especially the teams that play bigger you worry about that. What surprised me is how Rodi's activity has kind of made up for that lack of strength quite honestly. Part of the reason we wanted to move him to the 4 was because he rebounds the ball well. I don't know how many he had tonight but he can rebound his position. We might have stumbled on that. That's going to help us become a better team, that key position at the 4. Conversely on offense he spreads the defense out. He's like a guard, 6-9 guard. It's funky matchup for other teams to match him."
Kurucs isn't the only 4-man playing the position that way offensively these days, and it helps make him a viable defender there. The 6-10, 250-pound Griffin spent much of his time on the perimeter, shooting 1-for-5 from 3-point range or trying to back down or bulldoze his way to the rim. He ended up 1-for-10 overall from the field.
"He didn't even want to attack me from the perimeter," said Kurucs. "He was always passing the ball and screen and rolling because I think I'm quicker than him and I can guard him easier from there. He wanted always to post me. Sometimes in the first half maybe he didn't do a great job there but in the second half they started to watch me more and referees gave some fouls."