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Thursday, November 29, 2012
Defense reason for Nets' great start

By Mike Mazzeo

At 10-4, the Brooklyn Nets have matched their best 14-game start in franchise history (2002-03).

And they can thank ... wait for it ... their defense.

Despite allowing their opponents to shoot 44.9 percent (22nd, NBA), the Nets currently lead the league in scoring defense, surrendering just 90.7 points per game.

But how?

Well, they play at a slower pace than everyone in the league, averaging four possessions per 48 minutes below the league average of 94.6. As a result, their opponents are only getting up 78.6 field goal attempts per game, third-fewest in the league.

They are also giving up the second-fewest transition points a night (12.4).

Maybe it’s not a carbon copy of the way some of the greatest teams in NBA history have succeeded on that end of the floor, but it’s certainly worked wonders for Nets coach Avery Johnson and his squad.

“That’s a high responsibility,” said Johnson when asked about his surprising quote on media day about wanting to be a top-10 team defensively. “But if we’re going to be that way we’ve got to do it every night. We can’t take any nights off. And guys you know, they understand. They have a clear idea of what keeps them happy defensively. They understand where they make their mistakes.”

Johnson keeps a defensive rating each game, and while no one understands exactly how it is measured, the Nets have made him extremely happy of late.

In their last four games -- all wins -- the Nets have given up less than 90 points. When holding their opponents under 100 points, the Nets are 8-1.

Brooklyn comes in at No. 11 in defensive efficiency -- about as close to the top-10 as you can get.

*Thanks to ESPN Stats & Information’s Ernest Tolden for providing statistics for this blog.