The Nets’ 107-86 loss to the Knicks on Friday at Madison Square Garden was their worst performance of the season on both ends of the floor, but the most glaring stats revolved around poor rebounding. The Knicks bludgeoned the Nets on the boards, 55-34, including a 19-4 beating in offensive rebounds that led to a 31-6 difference in second-chance points.
The Nets (3-3) can’t afford a repeat against the Nuggets (2-3) Sunday night at Barclays Center. “It’s a big concern,” coach Kenny Atkinson said after practice on Saturday. “We’re 29th in the league in defensive rebounding [percentage]. We have a long way to go.
“I’ve said it since Day 1 that we have to do it by committee. You look at our guard rebounding, and it was like one, zero, two. It’s on our bigs, but beyond that, it’s on our guards. That’s Spencer [Dinwiddie], too. I don’t think Spencer had one last night, and he’s 6-6. Against a really good offensive rebounding team like Denver, we’re going to be tested. Let’s see if we can rectify it.”
Big men not a small problem
The season is young, but the Nets repeatedly have been found wanting against big men who can stretch to the perimeter to make shots. The latest was the Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis, who scored 30 points Friday night, and next in line is Denver center Nikola Jokic, who is shooting 50 percent from three-point range and 51.9 percent overall.
“He’s multi-dimensional,” Atkinson said of Jokic. “He’s a facilitator from the perimeter. Not to go back to [the Knicks loss], but [Kyle] O’Quinn and [Willie] Hernangomez were picking us apart from those elbow spots, and that’s where Jokic lives. We’ve got to do a better job pressuring those passers. A lot of teams are using big guys as facilitators from the perimeter spot.”
Undersized Nets power forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson struggled against the 7-3 Porzingis, who has an eight-inch height advantage over him, but Atkinson said the Nets could have done a better job of helping. “It’s definitely challenging, but I would say a lot of shots he made were tough shots, well-contested,” Hollis-Jefferson said. “It’s to his advantage because he’s so much taller, but that’s no excuse. I feel like I could have done a better job.”
Hollis-Jefferson has a tough matchup against Nuggets power forward Paul Millsap, but he undoubtedly will find himself against Jokic at times. “There’s a lot of talented bigs out there who can go in the post and shoot the deep ball,” Hollis-Jefferson said. “It’s about making every shot, every task hard for them. Just make it tough, and we’ll live with the results.”