HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Yep, the Nets’ defense still stinks.
No surprise, really. They ranked dead last in defensive efficiency most of last season, before settling for 29th because the Bobcats were the Bobcats. And though the Nets upgraded their roster quite a bit this summer, they did little to improve their defense.
So that was concern No. 1 when training camp opened. After three games, it’s still the No. 1 concern because the Nets, once again, rank dead last in defensive efficiency.
Most points allowed per 100 possessions, 2012-13
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
It’s just three games, one of them was against Miami’s No. 1-ranked offense, and two were without Gerald Wallace, arguably the Nets’ best defender. But the Nets ranked 29th defensively in the preseason, so we really have nine games of evidence that they’re going to really struggle on that end of the floor.
The Nets shot poorly from the perimeter, rarely got into the paint and never did find a way to slow down the N.B.A.’s pre-eminent superstar tandem. James and Wade combined for 42 points, nearly matching the entire Nets starting lineup.
“Nobody said we were on Miami’s level,” Coach Avery Johnson said. “We aspire to get there. We’re not there. We’re definitely not there with three games in the regular season.”
As Johnson pointedly noted, it took the Heat (4-1) a while to develop an identity when they brought Wade, James and Chris Bosh together in 2010. Wade himself stressed that the Nets will need patience as Deron Williams and Joe Johnson get acclimated to one another.
The process apparently will be ugly at times.
“We feel like this team shouldn’t be losing by 30 to anybody,” Williams said. “But it’s a work in progress. And we can all play better.”
Trying to dig into the Nets’ numbers doesn’t give you much information as to what works and what doesn’t, especially since their loss to the Wolves on Saturday included huge runs from both teams. While the Nets have the league’s worst NetRtg overall (-16.6 points per 100 possessions), they have the league’s best NetRtg (+25.3) in the second quarter, which is kind of crazy.
Their starting lineup from the last two games — with Keith Bogans in Wallace’s place — has been solid. It was a plus-3 in nine minutes against Minnesota and just a minus-1 in 16 minutes in Miami on Wednesday.
More games will produce more data and, for the Nets, hopefully more chemistry on defense. But given their struggles through six preseason games and three regular season games, it’s difficult to see them approaching Avery Johnson‘s goal of being a top 10 defensive team.