Don’t look now, but the Nets are playing some darn good defense.
In Monday’s victory over Chicago, Brooklyn players forced 28 turnovers, the most they’ve made a team cough up all year. Last year, Brooklyn was 25th in the league in opponent turnovers. This year the Nets rank seventh.
Everyone anticipated the addition of Kevin Garnett, one of the league’s elite interior defenders even in his old age, would improve the Nets defensively. But it is fitting that the Nets forced their season-high in turnovers with Garnett on the sidelines Monday. Quietly, with the additions of veteran role players including Andrei Kirilenko, Alan Anderson, Shaun Livingston and, now, Jason Collins, the Nets have forged a scrappy identity on the defensive side of the ball.
Now, with the playoffs a month and a half away, the test will be for the Nets to use this newfound prowess on defense to actually neutralize good offenses, not just force gaudy turnover stats.
The Bulls (33–27 despite playing without former NBA Most Valuable Player Derrick Rose for a second year in a row) score the fewest points per game in the entire league. A good defensive effort by the Nets against Chicago shouldn’t erase memories of last week’s 44-point drubbing in Portland, made even more embarrassing by the fact that the Trail Blazers were without top scorer LaMarcus Aldridge. On the other end of the spectrum from the Bulls, the Blazers lead the league in points per game.
It is one thing to play good defense against a bad offense, and there are plenty of those in the Eastern Conference. It is another to actually stifle a good offense, and that’s what the Nets will have to do to make a playoff run.
Matt Spolar is a nearly 6-foot-1 journalist with a middling high-school basketball career who is sure the Nets win thanks to team’s top-tier guards.