MIAMI — Sometimes bad defense starts on offense, which is why Nets coach Kenny Atkinson blamed too many turnovers and poor shot selection for leading to two straight poor defensive efforts by the Nets in home losses to the Wizards and Hornets.
Those are the factors Atkinson wanted his team to clean up against the Heat on Saturday night at American Airlines Arena, but they failed miserably in a 117-88 loss.
Turnovers were Atkinson’s primary concern before facing the Heat, but while the Nets had only 11 turnovers, they led to 17 points. “I think when I look back at the Charlotte game, I think a lot of it was our turnovers and shot selection, and that really leads to poor defensive transition,” Atkinson said.
“This is playoff time and teams raise their level, so just playing good defense isn’t good enough. We have to take another step up, and the contests have to be a little better, the individual defense has got to be a little better. We’ve got to turn it up a notch.”
Atkinson said the Nets’ defensive rebounding also has slipped since January, when they were playing good defense and were the NBA’s hottest team. That was a problem against the Heat as the Nets were outrebounded 56-36.
Describing what he saw against the Heat, Atkinson said, “A sign of a resilient team is when you’re not making shots, you get back and play defense. We’re not sticking guys. We’re not sticking our noses in there rebounding-wise. We’ve got a day off tomorrow. We’ve got to find our collective competitive spirit. That’s where we are right now.”
Atkinson said improved rebounding has been a point of emphasis since the All-Star break but it hasn’t taken hold. “At a certain point, he who wants it gets it,” he said. “We’re not the ones getting it right now. But give Miami credit. They played a great game, and we weren’t very good.”