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Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Nets, Knicks stumble early on defense

By Tom McKean

Getty ImagesThe Nets and Knicks have both struggled this season.
The New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets entered the season expecting to contend in the Eastern Conference, but both have stumbled early and posted 3-10 records to start the season.

The areas of concern are similar for both teams.

The transition game has been a major issue; the Knicks rank last in the NBA in fast break points per game, while the Nets are second to last.

Defense has also been a weakness, as Brooklyn is last in the NBA in defensive efficiency, while New York ranks third to last.

Knicks feeling isolated
While the Knicks defense has been very inefficient, their offense has been nearly as bad. They rank 22nd in points scored per 100 possessions. That’s behind the Lakers, Kings, Wizards and Magic this season.

Much of the problem for New York is its offensive makeup, and how ineffective it has been. The Knicks spend a league-high 13 percent of their time, but are tied for 20th in points per play in isolation.

Last season much of New York’s success stemmed from its three-point shooting; no team attempted and made more three pointers than the Knicks. This year, they’re shooting just 33 percent from beyond the arc, which ranks 20th in the NBA.

Nets efficiency suffering
Over in Brooklyn, the Nets were supposed to challenge the Heat and Pacers this season after the additions of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, but early on that hasn’t been the case.

Brooklyn’s most-played lineup this year (Garnett, Pierce, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and Deron Williams) have been on the floor together for 78 minutes, but are being outscored by 8.6 points per 48 minutes.

Garnett’s poor efficiency this season has been a major problem. His PER last season was 19.3, but that has dipped well below the league average of 15 to just 10.1 this season.

By comparison, when the Nets run the same lineup but Andray Blatche is on the floor instead of Garnett, they’ve outscored opponents by 20.3 points per 48 minutes. That lineup has logged the second-most minutes this season with 35.

Injuries have accentuated the problems for Brooklyn, as Lopez and Williams have both been ailing early on.

Nets not adjusting
Paul Pierce commented after Sunday's loss that Jason Kidd and the Nets weren't responding to opponent adjustments. Second half stats this season back up that claim, as Brooklyn's net efficiency in the second half is the worst in the league.

The road ahead
Can the Knicks and Nets bounce back from their slow starts?

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, 58 of 325 teams to start 3-10 or worse (18 percent) have recovered to make the playoffs. Only 17 of those teams won a playoff series.

Rachel Eldridge and Lee Singer contributed to this post.