Recap: Nets 86, Jazz 108 - Markel Needs Minutes
The Brooklyn Nets were thoroughly dominated on both sides of the ball in their 86-108 loss at home to the Utah Jazz Friday night, and have seemingly reached new lows in an already lost season as the team suffered their 10th defeat in their last 11 games.
Outside of an opening 19-8 run to begin the contest, absolutely nothing went right for the Nets on the evening. The team has traditionally struggled against younger and quicker opponents over the last few seasons, but it wasn’t even really the exuberance and energy of the up-and-coming Utah Jazz as it was the abject apathy on behalf of Brooklyn that rendered the game a blowout through three quarters. Nets defenders were a step late, if at all present, in their defensive rotations, and even YES Network color commentator Mike Fratello remarked on air about the lack of effort (and proper posture) from the team on the defensive end of the floor.
That effort was non-existent in the third quarter for Brooklyn, as an eight-point halftime lead for Utah soon tripled following a 37-17 period that opened up the game and crushed Nets fans’ (and bloggers’) spirits. The Jazz would make an unbelievable 12-straight field goals in the third frame, that consisted of plenty of wide-open dunks either on the fast break or through the lob in the half-court offense. As one of head coach Quin Snyder’s apparent halftime bulletin points, Utah realized how little resistance they would face at the rim against Brooklyn, and began up-faking to take their primary defender out of the picture and attack the lack of help defense.
The starters were rendered meaningless as the Utah lead pushed to 30 to begin the fourth quarter, which gave some of the previously bench-ridden young Nets a chance to see some action. Sergey Karasev, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Markel Brown all saw extended minutes alongside the Andrea Bargnani/Willie Reed frontcourt, and brought some energy and enthusiasm - along with crazy hustle plays - to the fourth quarter that saved the score from looking even more lopsided.
The Nets had no answer for the length of Utah’s Rudy Gobert, who finished with three blocked shots in 29 minutes and helped to hold Brooklyn to 44-percent shooting from the field. Offensively, he was a constant threat around (and above) the rim and in pick and rolls, and required a help defender almost all night due to his length and activity.
Brook Lopez, on the other hand, played just 19 minutes, scoring eight points and finishing with as many turnovers (3) as rebounds and assists combined (3 and 0, respectively). He, along with the rest of the Nets defense, struggled to stay with his man through high screens and was mostly a spectator as the Jazz converted on 57.3-percent of their field goal attempts and outscored Brooklyn, 54-42, in the paint at the Barclays Center.
Perhaps the only player actively participating on the defensive end against the Utah Jazz was second-year guard Markel Brown. Brown’s playing time has been… sporadic under Lionel Hollins in 2015-16, after starting in 29 games last season, but he’s always been a willing defender who has shown good instincts and also possesses the requisite upper-echelon athleticism to potentially be an impact player on that side of the court down the line.
Brown was the beneficiary of the blowout, appearing in 18 minutes and showcasing some of the defensive potential early in his second-quarter shift.
In the video highlight above, he’s starting this particular possession guarding left-handed shooting guard Rodney Hood, and keeps up with him on a baseline screen off the ball. Brown goes over the top of the screen, putting himself at mercy of a baseline drive by Hood with only Andrea Bargnani as his help defender, but Hood puts the ball on the floor and kicks it out instead of dropping it down to Jeff Withey on the pick and roll. Bargnani over-helps and leaves Withey alone on the roll, though Markel keeps the ball handler within arms’ reach through the screen.
Joe Ingles, at the top of the key, clearly wants no part of this possession, and the Utah action seems to be geared towards a Hood/Withey strong-side pick and roll, with Ingles as the designated skipper from the right elbow-extended, presumably to Trey Burke in the right-corner. Instead, he collects the pass back again from Hood and improvises a drive to the rim that draws multiple defenders, and clearly recognizes Willie Reed among them. Ingles kicks to the left-corner to an otherwise wide-open Trevor Booker - Willie Reed’s man - but the pass is intercepted by the intervening Markel Brown, who makes the correct read on the help defense to secure the turnover.
Brown leaves Rodney Hood at the three-point line to scramble to the corner to help on the Ingles kick out, and clearly recognizes his limited passing angles (or, if you will, Ingles’s angles). As Fratello tried to explain later in the telecast following a Sergey Karasev swipe on a Withey dunk, the Nets as a collective defensive unit lack the “help the helper” mentality, and seem mostly unsure of when to rotate, with the trust that their teammate will have their back. Markel made an instinctive play to help to the corner, and there’s a very good chance that if he was a step or two too late, Booker could have easily caught the pass from Ingles and swung to the left-elbow to Rodney Hood for a completely wide-open look, without any Nets help defense in sight.
Commend Markel Brown for helping the helper (Reed) in this situation and coming up with the steal, and making a rare defensive play for the Brooklyn Nets against Utah. As the season, and the Nets’ effort, appears uglier and uglier by the game, Brown’s playing time should hopefully become more consistent under Tony Brown, where he can be given the opportunity to develop those defensive instincts in extended minutes. At 11-33, following their 22-point loss to the Utah Jazz, the Brooklyn Nets should be looking to integrate any young pieces they can into their rotation, with Markel Brown the most deserving of an expanded role due to his unique skills and effort on defense.
The Brooklyn Nets will next play on Sunday afternoon, at 3:30 pm against the (33-12) Oklahoma City Thunder, at the Barclays Center.