The Nets' second game against the Atlanta Hawks in the past three days yielded a far different result, with a recurring defensive issue getting exposed after an uncharacteristic shooting night.
After edging the Hawks (4-1) in a 145-141 victory Wednesday, Brooklyn (3-3) never led on the way to a 114-96 loss Friday at Barclays Center.
"They made some adjustments, for sure, on the pick-and-roll," said Kevin Durant, who dropped a game-high 28 points on 10-of-21 shooting but went 2 for 7 from three-point range. "It was a little bit more aggressive and low to the ball, especially when Kyrie (Irving) and myself had it up top, which is a good adjustment. I mean, I picture a lot of teams will start to do that, but we also missed shots. And we had some good looks, but it was one of those nights."
Irving was the hero of a four-point triumph by Brooklyn two days ago, but an off night with 18 points on 6-of-21 shooting -- including a 2-for-11 clip behind the three-point arc -- emphasized the need for a better defensive effort.
The Hawks took advantage with six players in double figures, going 16 for 39 (41%) on triples. Durant mentioned that Jeff Green shared a message to the team about defense in the locker room, a sentiment Green opened up about afterward.
"Just to stay together," Green said. "There's going to be nights like this where we struggle to shoot the ball. We went 7 for (37) tonight at threes. But, I mean, besides the last couple minutes of the game, we're only down 10 points. ... It's weird to see this, but look on the bright side of where we were from how we played. And we played, offensively, not great. But we were still in the game, and that's where I get back to defensive principles. If we allow our defense to start dictating the game, then we can get easy baskets on the other end. And then we're down two possessions, then we're down one possession. And regardless of how we're shooting, we're still in the game because of our defense. And that was just my message. It wasn't anything special. It was just that we have to stick together and, on nights like this, we have to come together and focus on our defense."
As for Atlanta, De'Andre Hunter dropped 23 points on 9-of-10 shooting while Trae Young added 21. John Collins' rounded out the trio of Hawks leading with a combined 64 points.
A dive right into the season does not help matters, but the Nets are no exception to a 2020-21 schedule everyone else is dealing with. After a day to regroup, the Nets return with a favorable matchup in Sunday's 6 p.m. game against the winless Washington Wizards (0-5).
"It is difficult, but everyone else is in the same boat," said Joe Harris, who scored 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting and went 2 for 5 from. "I've got some rust. Maybe there's a few more unfamiliar faces where we're trying to jell together. But this is kind of what we all expected. It's definitely not going to be perfect here, by any means. And you just kind of have to learn through these mistakes early on and just stay together, grow together and things will start coming your way as long as you start to belief in what we're doing stays the same and everybody's together on it."