Early in the season, Steve Nash made it clear that he can look “ugly” at times as his new players learn how to play with each other. It was “ugly” against the Heat on Thursday night.
The Nets looked like a new team with little or no continuity. For the second game in a row, there was an excess of problems on the defensive end as well as just plain confusion on both ends. The second pre-season game ended in a 29-point defeat to the Heat and it’s clear that Brooklyn will need to take advantage of those last two pre-season games versus the Bucks and Timberwolves to get things right before the games start to unfold in less than two weeks.
“We know they go out and play physically. They’re going to get you in and let them win that fight,” Nash said after a pre-season loss to the Heat. “All those little fights: place, time, balance, sorting, not sorting, mowing, not seeing.” , no boxing, no loose balls, and you can go to the bottom of the list. It starts with the mindset and they have shown it. We should try to match that in the future.”
Furthermore, there is no bigger player on the Nets who needs the last two games of pre-season more than Ben Simmons. Understandably, the former All-Star had a hard time timing his passes throughout the competition – he’s new to the Nets and hasn’t played in over a year. Cough six turnovers in loss.
“Get ’em out of the way now, man,” Simmons said in his Six Transformations. “I have to take them out now so that’s something I can be aware of to fix. I’m not too worried about that. I mean it’s the second game again in like a year, so.”
He also took a first pass strategy throughout the competition, perhaps even to the extreme, finishing with only four points on three shots in his 25 minutes. Simmons was aggressive on the boards, collecting 10 rebounds, but was only able to provide four assists in His night shift is on Thursday.
“There’s a lot we need to build on and grow on, both defensively and clearly offensively, I think now we’re trying to figure out,” Simmons said. “Defensively we don’t have a lot of blueprints at the moment, so I think we’re just out there playing a lot and just trying to move the ball, play its pace and sort of get to know everyone’s game.”
Kevin Durant was running a heavy recording burden in Brooklyn’s loss. The star scored 22 points on an 8-of-12 effective shot from the field and 1 of 4 from a 3-point range (5 of 7 from the foul streak) for a total of 22 points in his 26-minute run. . Outside of Durant, there wasn’t a lot of scoring.
“To be honest, I didn’t like anything. I loved that we came out of the game healthy,” Durant said. You will run. As long as you play well or badly, you just need consistency. We want to keep building on that and keep getting better at it. We had some good extensions and some bad extensions. I think that’s part of the pre-season.”
Markiv Morris put in a solid showing with 10 points and six boards in 15 minutes off the bench. At the end of the game, Cam Thomas does what Cam Thomas does, scoring in sets to finish with 13 points in 20 minutes.
“Tonight how hard you played,” Nash said of Morris’ performance off the bench. “You tried to get in there and get attacking rebounds. He can lay the ground and make triples. A veteran knows how to play. The biggest role that how we can play this year is to be a leader and teach these guys how to compete and push them to higher levels.”
Brooklyn came out of the gates with a difference day and night defensively compared to Monday. In fact, they got off to a good start on both ends of the ground, sparked by a series of defensive plays by Simmons. In one, the Nets star intercepted a pass on the wing, causing it to fall off the field for the undisputed win. The Nets kept the Heat scoreless from a 3-point range (0 of 3) during the first five minutes of play, taking a 12-6 lead.
At the end of the first half, the attack raged for both teams. Although Morris kept the nets close—with four points and a draw with Unit Two—Simmons was passive, primarily looking for passes to his teammates along the perimeter and near the basket. Miami totally anticipated this strategy, cutting off his passing lanes and forcing him into three quick turns, leaving him without a single help on his 10-minute stint in the first. At one end, Brooklyn trailed 25-18 with Durant leading the net by five points for the team in nine minutes.
“I think he’s going to grow in that respect,” Nash said of Simmons as the boldest of the recording. “I think he’s going to get more tries. Right now it’s obviously a little bit difficult for us. We’re missing some guys tonight who take up space on the floor, put pressure on defense, can load up, do some of those things. Ben will be fine. He’ll get better. He’ll get better every night and he’s going to be a driver for us and he’s going to be a huge part of what we do. I’m not usually concerned about it but it’s a process. He hasn’t played for long. He’s also tied into a new group. That takes time. It won’t be perfect and probably won’t be any time soon. If we can keep getting better every day, that’s all we ask for.”
It became ugly in a second. And once again, it arose from their defensive struggles. Unit Two in Miami gained the upper hand against the Nets line-up with both Durant and Simmons on the ground. Ball movement at the Brooklyn end simply couldn’t find flow, swayed by the Heat’s effort to double down on Durant’s side.
On the other end, the Miami clinched the Nets in defense, often taking advantage of Brooklyn’s mistakes. Miami’s lead edge increased to 15 midway through the second frame. Brooklyn was never able to put together clean slates on either end to find momentum, as the first-half break came to 61-43 – the biggest deficit of the first half.
Simmons and Durant started in Brooklyn in the third quarter. The Nets attack was all about Durant, but Miami maintained a 20-point lead, capitalizing on a Nets neglect that eventually led to 26 turns to 11. Of the night for two Brooklyn stars.
A lineup of Thomas, Chris Chiusa, David Duke Jr., Utah Watanabe and Daeron Sharp played the majority of the fourth player. The young squad couldn’t break a double-digit deficit when it was all said and done.
“Yeah, we’re giving everyone a different look and different substitution patterns right now so everyone gets a chance in pre-season,” Nash said in the fourth lineup.
Harris, Irving Set
Joe Harris has sat out the game as the Nets want to be conservative in his recovery and rehabilitation after two ankle surgeries. Kyrie Irving, who welcomed his second child on Wednesday, also rested. Both were in the match as was Seth Curry who is also recovering from ankle surgery. Steve Nash said they hope to bring Curry back through the Nets’ fourth and final pre-season game versus the Timberwolves. The three are the team’s best three-point shooters by percentage and with the Nets shooting 17.9 percent from a depth of 5 out of 28, tonight, they were sorely missed.
The Nets will play the third of their four-game pre-season roster against the Bucks in Milwaukee on Wednesday, October 12.
For a different perspective on Thursday’s pre-season match against Miami, check out Hot Hot Hoops – Our sister site covers Hit.