Nets hope to mesh in city of brotherly love
Visit Philadelphia after season-opening loss at Milwaukee
Kevin Durant called it, “just one game out of 82.”
But for the Brooklyn Nets, Tuesday night’s season-opening drubbing at the hands of the defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks, was something they’d sooner forget than let linger.
The best way to do that is to get that initial win out of the way Friday night in Philadelphia against the rival 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center.
“No matter who we play, let’s play well. Let’s worry about ourselves. Let’s worry about a good performance and playing together and being connected,” Nets head coach Steve Nash said even before the 127-103 rout his team absorbed against the Bucks.
The Nets, by their own admission, hardly looked connected or together in Tuesday’s gruesome defeat.
They were outrebounded, outhustled, gave up 22 points on turnovers and at least 30 points in each quarter except the third, when they surrendered 29.
Nash and Durant appeared to handle the defeat with aplomb, citing the team’s lack of cohesion as something that will ultimately take care of itself over the next several weeks, whether Kyrie Irving takes his vaccination shot and returns to the team or not.
“The outcomes will take care of themselves. We don’t get too caught up in narratives because we play 82 games,” Nash went on.
“If you’re having a narrative every night you’ve going to be exhausted about week two, so we just try to stick to what we do and come out and be prepared and play as well as we possibly can on the night.”
Lack of communication on defense cost the Nets a chance to earn a measure of revenge against the Bucks, who walked out of Barclays Center with a memorable Game 7 overtime win in the conference semifinals and backed it up with a blowout victory Tuesday.
Milwaukee went on to win its first championship since 1971, while the Nets lamented what could have been as they watched the Bucks receive their championship rings at Fiserv Forum.
Brooklyn’s defense improved throughout last season and should do so again as this grind of a campaign wears on.
“Defense is, it’s gotta be on the top of the list for us,” said Nets forward Blake Griffin. “When our communication is good, I think we’re a lot better.
“When we get quiet, we have a bunch of guys defensively who know what to do. We’ve just got to be on the same page. When you’re switching out of stuff and you’re playing non-traditional lineups, your communication has to be better. That’s what we’ve worked on in practice.”
Durant cited the Bucks’ cohesiveness when asked for the difference between the two teams Tuesday night.
Milwaukee has had its top players in a solid rotation for years, while adding talent along the way.
The Nets are still trying to find their groove as a unit despite boasting two active players, Durant and James Harden, who made the NBA’s 75th anniversary all-time team this week.
Adding the likes of Patty Mills, who scored 21 points on a perfect 7-for-7 shooting night from 3-point range in the opener, has helped make up for the absence of Irving, who continues to sit out while remaining non-vaccinated.
It will take time for Durant, Harden and the rest of the Nets to mesh together the way they hope to, especially if Brooklyn is to live up to its championship aspirations come next summer.
“When James came in (last January) it felt like we switched our whole defense, offense, to kind of cater to the players that we had,” Durant ceded.
“Because we had four, five guys go out so we had to adjust how we wanted to play and I think this year, having a versatile group from day one, we’re talking over different defenses, different schemes that we can use and that’s always good. So it’s good to have that veteran presence here and everybody has been energetic and communicating at a high level.”
They’d better take it to an even higher level in Philadelphia Friday night or risk coming home for Sunday’s Barclays Center opener vs. Charlotte with an 0-2 record.
NOTHING BUT NET: Though Mills was on fire off the bench for Brooklyn in Milwaukee Tuesday night, the rest of the Nets’ reserves only combined for four points. … Nic Claxton got the start at center vs. the Bucks, putting up 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting with seven rebounds. However, the Nets were outscored by 15 points during Claxton’s 22 minutes on the hardwood. … Sunday’s opener at Barclays kicks off a six-game homestand for the Nets, who will also host Washington, Miami, Indiana, Detroit and Atlanta before traveling to Detroit on Nov. 5. Even if the Nets had not banned Irving from road games, he would have been unavailable to them for almost two weeks worth of games due to New York City’s vaccination mandates at Barclays and Madison Square Garden.
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