ATLANTA -- Opposing defenses have figured out how to contain the Brooklyn Nets:
1. Take away pocket passes to Brook Lopez off pick-and-roll actions.
2. Make the rest of the team beat you from the perimeter.
In Brooklyn’s past four games, Lopez has attempted just 34 shots (7.5 per game) and his teammates have made only 27 percent of their 3-pointers (20-for-74). The Nets are 1-3 over that span.
In Sunday night’s 99-92 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in Game 1, the 7-foot center went 6-for-7 from the field, with most of his shots coming on putbacks and second-chance opportunities. Meanwhile, the Nets went 5-for-20 from beyond the arc (25 percent).
“Their reluctance to throw the ball inside baffles me,” NBA TV analyst Isiah Thomas said after the game. “As a big man playing for the Brooklyn Nets, I would be so upset with the guards. The big guys should come into the locker room, and there should be a fight with the little guards. You should grab that little guard, throw him up on the floor and say, ‘Next time, when I’m open, throw me the ball in the paint.’”
Lopez laughed upon hearing what Thomas had said.
“No, I don’t think I’m going to fight [the guards],” Lopez said Monday at practice.
Still, Thomas has a point. The same point others -- including myself -- have made. The Nets need to find a way to adjust and get Lopez more touches.
Since the All-Star break, the Nets are 7-0 when Lopez attempts 20 or more field goals, with wins over Golden State, Milwaukee, Toronto, Portland and Washington. In those seven games, Lopez is averaging 30 points on 57.8 percent shooting.
“Maybe I should just go out there and say, ‘Brook, just shoot anywhere, everywhere, any time,’ and we’ll win, right?” Nets coach Lionel Hollins deadpanned. “Come on. It’s deeper than that. We’re going to try to get Brook more shots, but that’s the game of cat-and-mouse.”
Absolutely. And the Hawks certainly deserve credit as well. They fronted Lopez, trapped potential pick-and-roll opportunities and were active in preventing post-entry passes.
But it’s on Hollins, Lopez and the guards to counter now in Game 2. Not only do they need to get Lopez more shots but they need to get him quality looks as well.
“We're gonna try. We'll see [Wednesday]. You'll see [Wednesday],” Hollins said.
Deron Williams offered an in-depth explanation on Sunday night of how the Nets could diversify their offensive attack to make things easier for Lopez.
“Their defense is so good against our first actions. We’re not gonna score [with] our first pick-and-roll,” Williams said. “We have to as a team swing the ball, swing the ball again and maybe drive it. We just can’t try to come up, screen-and-roll, shot. That’s just playing into their hands and giving them what they want.
“We just gotta find some actions that work for [Brook]. Because we definitely need to get him the ball -- that little pocket pass that we were getting the last half of the season [for him to get push shots] is not there against these guys. They're doing a good job of taking that away, but like I said, swing, swing and then maybe post him up on the other side. Those are things we can do to get Brook involved, and we need to get him more involved.”
Lopez’s lack of involvement on offense, of course, isn’t Brooklyn’s only concern. The Nets also need to start taking care of the ball more and getting stops with greater consistency.
Now, that’s easier said than done. After all, there’s a reason why the Hawks won a franchise-record 60 games during the regular season.
But if the Nets want to make this a competitive series, they’re going to have to figure out a way to use Lopez’s size and skill to their advantage.
Notes: Mirza Teletovic (blood clots) looked good during Monday’s practice, participating in some 3-on-3 drills with his teammates. It didn’t sound like he’d be available for Game 2, though there is nothing definitive on that yet. … Hollins would not reveal who is going to start at shooting guard. He had said he may decide to replace Markel Brown with Bojan Bogdanovic or Alan Anderson. … None of the players seemed to buy into the notion that Al Horford (finger) would not play on Wednesday night. … The Nets practiced at nearby Georgia Tech. Thaddeus Young and Jarrett Jack both attended the school.