Poor Defense Dooms Nets in Summer League Matchup with Grizzlies

After their victory Sunday, the Brooklyn Nets looked to build momentum in Summer League as they took on the Memphis Grizzlies. That momentum never materialized. The Nets looked like the inferior team as they were demolished by the Grizzlies. The common themes of the summer—turnovers and poor defense—were magnified in their loss. Memphis raced out to a quick start, and never looked back, tying the Summer League record for most points scored, as Brooklyn lost 120-84.

Brooklyn did have a solid start to the game. Ball movement led to easy looks at the basket, and the Nets were able to match bucket to bucket. However, the more disciplined Grizzlies began to create havoc on defense, forcing the Nets into sloppy, unnecessary turnovers. These miscues led to quick buckets for Memphis. The Nets transition defense was poor, featuring little hustle and slow rotations. The bright side of the quarter was that forward Kessler Edwards seemed to find his shot, knocking down from two mid-range. Cam Thomas struggled from the field, but was able to get to the line and add six points. Memphis led following the first quarter 34-22.

The second quarter continued to look much the same. Sloppy turnovers, leading to poor transition defense, and easy buckets for the Grizzlies. To compound the issue, Brooklyn gave Memphis second chance opportunities through poor rebounding. However, the Nets did look more active on the defensive end, forcing stops when they were able to set their defense. Some of the good looks the Nets schemed but could not connect on in the first quarter began to fall the second. However, the Nets offense looked streaky, and they could not close the gap on Memphis. Cam Thomas continued to show he was a great offensive player, tacking on six more points to his total. Fellow sophomores Day’Ron Sharpe and David Duke, Jr. woke up and contributed five and four points respectively. Unfortunately, their efforts could not keep up with the Grizzlies mauling as the Nets found themselves down 65-41 at the intermission.

Despite the poor first half, the third quarter provided a good amount of hope for Brooklyn. The Nets adjusted, employing a full court press on defense. Initially, this provided numerous turnovers, leading to quick transition scores for Brooklyn. As the Nets chipped away at the deficit, Cam Thomas started to take over the game, scoring 11 points off 60 percent shooting for the quarter. Forward Kaiser Gates also hit two key three pointers. However, the good feelings of the start of the third wore away. The Nets resorted back to poor transition defense, this time off misses. All hopes for a comeback evaporated as the Nets would be down 88-67 heading into the final frame.

The fourth quarter resulted into garbage time for this game. Without any hopes of a comeback, Brooklyn and Memphis emptied their benches for any possible developmental time or talent search. Cam Thomas did score six points and Day’Ron added five. Off the bench, guard Noah Kirkwood scored a couple nice buckets of his own. The end of the game provided some razzle dazzle, though at the Nets expense. Brooklyn would fall to 1-2 in Summer League, losing 120-84

Sophomore Positives

Despite the loss, there were some positives to take away from the game. Guard Cam Thomas continued his Summer League MVP campaign, adding another scoring burst to contribute 29 points on nine-of-19 shooting. On defense, Thomas was more active, and was able to force a steal. However, this is still a work in progress as there would be several plays where Thomas would be slow on a rotation. Though Thomas only logged three assists, he looked like a more willing passer. Thomas had some nice pick-and-roll passing or kickouts to the corner. Unfortunately, those shots were not able to drop or finish to count on the stat sheet. Like his defense, Thomas’s passing is still a work in progress as there were a few plays where his tunnel vision caused him to ignore wide open shooters.

Overall, Thomas has been one of the bright spots of the Nets Summer League, and continues to be a hopeful piece of the Nets future.

Center Day’Ron Sharpe had another solid outing, scoring 13 points and adding 9 rebounds. Defensively, Sharpe continued to be a presence in the paint. Even better, Sharpe looked more agile and looked capable of guarding the perimeter. This is a positive development as it is becoming more vital in today’s NBA for big men to have the ability to guard the perimeter. Offensively, Sharpe continued to work on his post-up game. Impressively, he has also become a better shooter from three-point range. Sharpe went 2/3 from downtown, with one shot being off the backboard and the other a clean swish. Sharpe’s development of a three-point shot will expand his game and provide an even greater role for him in Brooklyn.

Guard David Duke, Jr. had a slow start to the game, but was able to recover and have a productive game. DDJ continued to develop his range, opening up his scoring knocking down a three. However, his offensive strength still lies in slashing and getting to the basket, which is how he did a majority of his scoring. Duke, Jr.’s calling card today was once again his defense. DDJ looked very locked in on defense, and was giving Memphis ballhandlers fits. DDJ continued to prove his worth to be on the Nets main roster on a guaranteed contract as he forced three steals to try and spark the Nets comeback.

Kessler Edwards had a mixed game. Despite the hot start early, Edwards cooled off and didn’t leave much of an impact on the game. Edwards finished with six points, two rebounds, and a steal, adding no three pointers. It has been a rough summer for Edwards as in all three games, as he’s struggled to hit from downtown. As mentioned in my preview, Edwards needs to be able to shoot effectively from three if he is going to be important to the Nets rotation. However, Edwards has been continuously showing an increased shot selection, shooting more mid-range shots than previously. Defensively, Edwards continues to prove he is a capable perimeter defender as well.

Other Notes

Forward Kaiser Gates was a solid contributor for the Nets today. Maximizing his opportunity, Gates hit two three pointers when the Nets were trying to mount their comeback.

Though Alondes Williams struggled mightily today, not hitting a single field goal, his passing is still good as advertised. Williams facilitated some nice looks, and though he only had three assists, some of the scoring opportunities he set up didn’t end in a basket.

Next Roll in Vegas

With the loss, the Brooklyn Nets fall to 1-2 in Summer League play. With that record, the Nets should effectively be eliminated from championship contention. However, their time in Vegas is not over yet. Brooklyn looks to bounce back from the loss as they will take on Minnesota Timberwolves. The game will take place on Thursday, July 14 at the Cox Pavilion. Tip-off will be at 10:00 PM EST, with ESPN on the broadcast.