The Nets continue to have one glaring problem that cannot be blamed on the absence of unvaccinated Kyrie Irving.
If there has been a common theme in the Nets’ three losses already this season (aside from James Harden’s ongoing shooting woes) it’s that they’ve been outclassed on the boards — especially so in their loss Wednesday to the Heat at Barclays Center.
The Nets were outrebounded by a 62-42 margin, including 17-4 on the offensive glass, in their 13-point loss. Conversely, they have won both of the games in which they have managed a rebounding edge.
Head coach Steve Nash’s team will look to be better in that area in Friday’s home game against the Pacers.
“Obviously the personnel, if we had a whole bunch of leading rebounders it wouldn’t be an issue, but since we don’t have that personnel that’s just naturally going to clean up the glass we’ve got to all come in and gang rebound,” Nash said after Wednesday’s game. “You can’t have two, three guys backpedaling down the other end of the floor watching the ball get banged around in there.
“We’ve got to come back and help and hit. Definitely got outrebounded in a big way and that was really what was the difference in the game.”
It’s true that the Nets don’t have a classic rebounder on their roster, and center Nic Claxton was out Wednesday night with a non-COVID illness. But Kevin Durant (10.0 rebounds per game and Harden (7.0) could use some assistance from their trio of former All-Star big men — Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge and Paul Millsap — particularly on the offensive end of the floor.
Reserve guard Patty Mills had two of the Nets’ four offensive rebounds against the Heat, one was by Bruce Brown and Aldridge grabbed the other during his 12 minutes of action.
At the other end, the Nets also couldn’t keep Dewayne Dedmon (six offensive rebounds, in 17 minutes) or P.J. Tucker (four) off the boards. Nash called the constant second-chance points allowed his team’s Achilles’ heel.
“We just have to rebound better. It’s pretty plain and simple,” Durant added. “The differential just can’t be that big. Even if you get outrebounded, it can’t be by a substantial margin, otherwise it’d be really hard to win.
“I thought our defense was really good [Wednesday night]. We played very physical, disciplined, got stops when we needed to. But you can’t allow second-chance opportunities.”
The Heat held a whopping 31-4 advantage in second-chance points, negating strong shooting nights by Durant, who had a team-high 25 points, and Joe Harris, who set the franchise record for career 3-pointers made. The Nets also committed 15 turnovers in the loss.
“Second-chance opportunities and turnovers offensively, a lot of times they lead to high-quality offensive possessions, so you can’t allow those things to compound and build up on you,” Durant said. “We did have a lot of turnovers, and we gave up a lot of second-chance opportunities. So you’ve just got to try and cut back as much from those as you can.”
Harden, who is shooting just 35.9 percent from the floor this season after missing eight of 12 shot attempts against the Heat, believes a rebounding improvement will come from a full team effort.
“That’s just something that we’ve got to preach and talk about every day until guys get it. Like, we can’t go anywhere without getting this rebound as a team,” Harden said. “No matter how tall you are, what your position is, when the shot goes up, you’ve got to go help get the rebound.
“And we’ve got to continue to preach it every single day until we become a really good defensive rebounding team. Not even great but just good enough to where we can get the rebound and push the ball. That’s the game right there.”