Brooklyn came out shooting hot against Portland on Monday night, accounting for 40 points in the first quarter alone and shooting 52% for the first half. The Blazers needed a concerted effort on defense — not one of their strong suits — in order to get a win against the Nets. Terry Stotts and his assistants have made some very good halftime adjustments over the last two weeks and it’s an underrated part of what has led to this Blazers winning streak. Portland held the Nets to just 21% in the second half. Let’s take a look at how they did it.
Fighting over the top of screens to create backside pressure on jumpshots and drives
Portland hedged high with their guards on all of Brooklyn’s pick-and-rolls, fighting back down the lane line to create backside pressure. It kept the Portland bigs from having to absorb fouls down low and got the Nets wings off their game.
Stopping Brooklyn from shooting elbow jumpers
The Blazers coaching staff obviously had first-half film that showed Brooklyn running their side pick-and-roll and low-high curls to the free throw line. Portland was determined to stop it and made an effort to get to that spot on the floor when Brooklyn ran those plays, contesting their shots and forcing misses. The result was stark. The Nets had just six of their 33 missed field goal attempts as wide open shots. Take a look at the Nets shot chart from the first quarter (left) and the third quarter (right) with regard to the shots at the free throw line.
Rotating and contesting three-pointers
Portland did an excellent job rotating, especially when they double-teamed Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce as they posted up Damian Lillard and Wes Matthews. The Blazers double-teamed on the second dribble with their weak side wing as the Nets isolated the post up on the strong side of the floor. That allowed the strong side guard to sag but stay close to the primary wing on the play. As the Nets kicked out of the post, the weak side Portland wing could then swing back to his man as they pressured the ball on the arc.
Help defense by Portland bigs
Portland’s bigs — Aldridge and Lopez primarily — did an excellent job helping out on penetration. Johnson and Livingston were forcing the issue inside in the second half and it allowed Blazer bigs to sag to the lane to help alter shots. The Nets side pick-and-roll was designed to get a baseline jumper for the roll man or a free throw jumper / drive for the ball handler. As Nets bigs floated to the elbow it allowed Portland to help down low.
Bad shot selection by Brooklyn
To be fair to Portland, these plays have much to do with shaking the confidence of Brooklyn shooters through their solid defense. However, the example below shows Joe Johnson passing up an open jumper after losing Wes Matthews. Nets shooters were taking more difficult shots than was necessary, including forcing the issue in the paint.
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