PHILADELPHIA — Saturday’s playoff opener was a learning experience for Nets center Jarrett Allen as the 20-year-old made his playoff debut.
Philadelphia center Joel Embiid drew two quick fouls on Allen in the game’s opening minutes. He drew his fourth early in the third quarter and played just 10 minutes. Overall, the Nets committed 27 fouls and sent the Sixers to the line for 42 free throws. Embiid and Jimmy Butler combined for 33 of those.
Maintaining a physical approach without fouling — “we’ve got to get rid of the silly ones,” said Nets coach Kenny Atkinson — was a focus of Sunday’s film session.
“I think he got caught out of position,” said Atkinson of Allen. “I think we’re asking him to do a lot of things for a young player. I think we’re asking him to help off Embiid, to help with their back-cuts – we’re paying a lot of attention to (JJ) Redick so he’s got to clean up some back doors – so it’s not just ‘Hey, play your man. We need you really to play a team defense.’ I just think it’s part of his growth and he’ll get better at it. But I don’t think it was just pure physicality, him getting overpowered. I think it was more positioning.”
The Nets fared OK with Embiid overall. Though he finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds, Embiid shot just 5-for-15, including 0-for-5, and did most of his scoring from the foul line. But Jared Dudley made the point that the Nets need Allen on the floor for far more than nine minutes due to his value to the Brooklyn offense, and Atkinson concurred.
“It’s really important, his thrust to the rim,” said Atkinson. “We’re a pick and roll team at the end of the day. He’s our roller. You take him out of the lineup, Ed’s a good roller, but not an elite roller like JA. And then you take Ed and you put Jared Dudley as your 5, now you’ve no roller, popper. Which is not, like I said, we’ve been doing that a little bit. I’m not against it. Yes, he needs to be on the floor to help us offensively too.”
THANKS FOR NOTICING
Now that they’re in the playoffs for the first time as a group — there are no players remaining from Brooklyn’s last playoff team in 2015 — the Nets are drawing more attention than during the regular season, even if their profile did elevate as they closed in on a playoff spot.
That all took another jump on Saturday when, in the first game of this season’s playoffs, the sixth-seeded Nets knocked off the third-seeded Sixers in the first game of their series.
“It’s a little different for us,” said Atkinson. “We’re kind of like the little school that hasn’t gotten on national television. I feel like I’m back at Richmond again. Listen, we have to do a lot more to get on all of your radar more and do better and do bigger things, and I think we understand that. But it’s a first step, a positive step for the franchise.”
ATKINSON’S PLAYOFF WIN
A week ago, Kenny Atkinson walked out of the locker room in Indiana with the game ball after Brooklyn clinched its trip to the playoffs. Saturday, he notched his first playoff win in his first try.
“Now you’re going to get me emotional,” said Atkinson. “I don’t want to get emotional. I don’t think about that stuff. We’re in such a fight. Listen, I know we have to stay humble. I have to stay humble. So I’m not going to celebrate this victory. I’m sure I’m going to look back on it and be extremely happy [with] how far we’ve come, that we won our first playoff game. It’s very cool. But they lost their first playoff game last year, too, so we’re a humble group and we know how far we’ve got to go. Yes, I’m emotional about it, happy about it, but just got to put that in a little closet or little drawer until after the season.”
Before the game, Sixers coach Brett Brown, who oversaw a different type of rebuilding project in Philadelphia, praised the job Atkinson and GM Sean Marks have done.
“The job that Kenny’s done taking the players that Sean has given him and come up with a tough style of play has been a wonderful partnership,” said Brown. “I have much respect for how they’ve rebuilt that program.”
The Nets took a first step with Saturday’s win over the Sixers. How will Philly respond? What do the Nets want to stick with and change up? It’s the start of chess match and Atkinson, in his first playoff series as a head coach, is enjoying the challenge.
“Yeah it’s fun. It’s fun. It’s so different than regular-season, where you’ve really got time to prepare,” said Atkinson. “You spend a lot more time with your staff with is cool. We went through the game, we did an edit for the guys. And like I said we can make some changes, too. We’re not thinking ok we won the game let’s stay 100 percent with what we did. I think we have to be ahead of the game a little bit, and figure what we can do better.”
THE BIG BUTLER CHALLENGE
If there was one thing that decisively not go well for Brooklyn on Saturday, it was defending Jimmy Butler. The Philadelphia swingman shot the Sixers back into the game after the Nets went up by 17 in the second quarter, and he finished with 36 points on 50 percent shooting while taking 15 free throws and grabbing nine rebounds.
“Well yeah, that’s part of the adjustment,” said Kenny Atkinson. “We have to look at doing some different things with him. I’m not going to tell you what they are, but yeah I think that’s part of it. I think he got going. And that was not the plan, have Jimmy score 30-something points and get to the free throw line as much as he did. So we’re going to have to lock in a little better there.”
While Butler and Joel Embiid combined for 58 points — despite shooting 5-for-15, Embiid did get to the foul line to make 12-of-18 free throws — Brooklyn’s greatest defensive success came in containing JJ Redick and Tobias Harris. The pair shot a combined 4-for-7 for a total of nine points. Redick fouled out after playing just 22 minutes.
“Big part of our game plan shutting those guys down, keeping them off the 3-point line, I thought that was important,” said Atkinson,. “Obviously we didn’t do such a great job on Jimmy. Jimmy’s tough. We put him on the 3-point line a bunch, he was tough in pick and roll, didn’t do a great job there. Slowing down JJ and Tobias, that was a big part of our plan.”
GUARDS GET GOING
Nets guards were consistently strong against Philadelphia during the regular season, fueling Brooklyn’s high-scoring games against the Sixers. The Nets only had Caris LeVert for two of those games. On Saturday, he, D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie combined for 67 points.
“That’s kind of who we are,” said Kenny Atkinson. “That’s our strength. I think we all know it whether it’s against the Sixers or the Clippers. Spencer has had a heck of a year. D’Angelo has obviously had an All-Star year and Caris, like I said last night, he’s kind of the x-factor. Now you bring a third ballhandler into the mix. It’s not just one ballhandler, one point guard. You’ve got three guys that can cause damage. I think that’s tough to defend.”
Published at Sun, 14 Apr 2019 21:30:48 +0000