After the season as a championship favorite, the Brooklyn Nets are instead gone fishing, the first real playoff participants are eliminated from the real postseason tournament after they were swept 4-0 by the Boston Celtics. Although they lost the four games by only a combined 18 points, the Nets often appeared outmanned, outclassed, outexecuted, out-just-about-everything-ed by their opponents going gentleman on their way to that good Brooklyn night.
The Nets’ series loss showcased the shortcomings of their roster construction, including, just how short so many of their rotation players were. Boston’s size advantage, especially on the perimeter, was noticeable throughout the series.
The Nets gave just 146 total minutes to players listed between 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-8, with 139 of them going to Bruce Brown, who is 6-4. The Celtics gave more minutes to three individual players in that size range (6-8 Jayson Tatum, 6-6 Jaylen Brown and 6-4 Marcus Smart), and 669 total minutes to their five rotation players who met that criteria (that star trio). , plus 6-4 Derrick White and 6-6 Grant Williams). Meanwhile, Brooklyn doled out 453 minutes to players listed at 6-foot-3 or above (Kyrie Irving, Seth Curry, Goran Dragi and Patty Mills), while Boston gave just 46 minutes to its only rotation player of that size (Payton Pritchard). General Chat Chat Lounge
As a result, the average player on the floor for the Celtics was bigger than the average Nets player in just about every way: taller by 1.1 inches, heavier by 13.4 pounds, longer by 1.2 inches.
|Celtics||78.4 in.||215.4 lbs.||82.6 in.|
|Nets||77.3 in.||202.0 lbs.||81.4 in.|
|Difference||1.1 in.||13.4 lbs.||1.2 in.|
Those differences may not seem huge, but they showed up all over the place. The Celtics dominated the offensive glass, corraling 30.1 percent of their missed shots during the series compared to only 23.0 percent for the Nets. Brooklyn’s shots were contested more closely and more frequently than Boston’s, according to Second Spectrum tracking – and that was why Brooklyn was taking a far lower share of its shots in the paint, where defenders were better positioned to compete on the perimeter.
Boston’s individual and collective lengths are all kinds of problems, even for one of the rangiest players in the NBA. Much was made of Durant’s poor shooting numbers throughout the series, and indeed, he finished with his third-worst field-goal percentage in any series in his 15-year career. But look, sometimes even the best shooters the league has ever seen missed shots. It happens. Stephen Curry went through the same thing for much of this season, showing that even the Greatest Shooter of All Time is not immune to a cascade of bricks on occasion.
What was even stranger in this series was Durant’s volume of turnovers, and the way in which they occurred. He gave the ball away 21 times in four games, marking the first series in his career which he coughed up more than five times per contest. And while a few of those were offensive fouls, and he tossed a bad pass here and there, an alarming number of KD’s miscues simply lost control of his dribble, either on the perimeter or as he attempted to wade through the thicket of the limbs. The Celtics placed between Durant and the basket.
The Celtics were able to show KD so many bodies (and twice as many arms) on every trip because they acted as if they didn’t care what anyone else could do to punish them offensively. They practically ignored the existence of Nicolas Claxton and Andre Drummond, liberally off of Brown and even sent defenders who were ostensibly guarding Curry or Mills into Durant’s path.
Meanwhile, Irving made life more difficult for his star teammate by doing things like cutting through the lane while Durant was on the drive, but even that wasn’t as damaging as Irving did when the ball was in his own hands. At times, it seemed as though Irving was trying to make things as difficult as possible for himself. He’d pass up open looks to dribble in contested stepbacks; Drive into multiple defenders and rise up with little to no room to get his shot off; Or pull up too fast on the pick and rolls, allowing his defender to get a rearview contest and force a miss.
Can Irving make these types of shots – and the ones even more difficult? Absolutely. It ‘s part of what makes him such a uniquely talented player. It’s also part of what makes him a frustrating one, because a player’s rare gifts should be striking to create much looks better than these. According to Second Spectrum, his average jump shot during this series carried an expected effective field-goal percentage of just 42.6 percent. That’s his second-lowest mark for any playoff series in his career. He’s too quick, too crafty with the ball in his hands, too creative around the rim to settle for a “good enough” shot when he’s more capable of generating a “good” one on any given possession.
Irving’s struggles to create open looks were emblematic of Brooklyn’s as a team. NBA Advanced Stats breaks down shots based on four categories based on how closely they were contested by the nearest defender: very tight (0 to 2 feet), tight (2 to 4 feet), open (4 to 6 feet) and wide open (6). -plus feet). The Nets generated less profitable looks than the Celtics did, with Boston getting a nearly even 50-50 split of tight and open shots and Brooklyn tipping more toward contested shot attempts.
|All tight shots||55.1||49.8|
|All open shots||44.9||50.1|
Unsurprisingly given these disparities, the Nets lost the shot quality to the Celtics, both over the course of the series (54.3 for Quantified Shot Quality for Boston, 48.3 for Brooklyn) and in each game (at least 1.9 and as many as 9.7 percent. points). Only Brooklyn’s outrageous shotmaking ability kept this series from being a total blowout. Despite their shot quality deficiencies, the Nets actually finished the series with a much more effective field-goal percentage than the Celtics, earning themselves an ignominious distinction. First team in NBA playoffs history to be swept despite posting the higher mark in that statistic.
Beyond all these issues, Boston also simply had a more playoff-ready roster than Brooklyn.
All of the Nets’ non-Durant shooters (Irving, Curry, Dragić, Mills) have major defensive liabilities, which made it difficult for Nets coach Steve Nash to craft the lineups that spaced KD wide enough for him to do what he usually does. offense. Meanwhile, Brooklyn’s two non-Durant defensive weapons are either non-threat outside of the restricted area and epic disasters at the free-throw line (Claxton) or streaky enough outside that the Celtics felt comfortable letting him fire away (Brown), so As long as he wasn’t short-rolling and kickstarting the ball movement got an open look at the more consistent shooters.
Nash spent much of the regular season tinkering with different groupings, trying to figure out which combinations players would work best in a playoff setting, just as he did last year. Brooklyn used 43 different starting lineups this season – none for more than 11 games and 28 for just one single contest. Last season’s tinkering seemed more focused, though, with Nash pairing Whichever Stars healthy to gauge the role of a rotating cast that put them in the position of Durant, Irving and James Harden to the best position. This season’s experimentation appears to be a result of COVID-19, injury, refusal-to-get-the-vaccine, desire-to-be-traded-to-Philadelphia and back / mental health-related player absences, and the Nets. never able to establish two-way continuity with any version of the team.
What happens next for Brooklyn is pretty much an open question. Durant is signed long term, and Irving has indicated that he wants to be. (Whether it’s a good idea to give a similar deal to a player who has proven himself unreliable in several different ways up for debate.) Brown and Claxton are set to be free agents, along with Dragić, Drummond, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge. General Chat Chat Lounge Ben Simmons, should he get back on the court, would be a salve for some of the team’s issues, but he exacerbates others. The same goes for Joe Harris, who has not lost his ability to shoot while rehabbing his ankle but also wasn’t exactly a stalwart defender before going under the knife. Curry has one year remaining on his down-market deal, and Mills has a player option for next season. In other words, almost none of this roster’s future is settled at the moment.
General manager Sean Marks and the company have a lot of decisions ahead. With its season over far earlier than most expected, Brooklyn has nothing but time to make them.
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