The Brooklyn Nets need Spencer Dinwiddie to be much better if they're going to have a shot against the high-powered Philadelphia 76ers.
After averaging 17.3 points per game this season, Dinwiddie has scored 26 total through the first two games of the NBA playoffs series. The veteran has been unable to find his stroke from all areas of the floor, shooting 10-of-26 (38.5 percent) from the field and 2-of-8 (25 percent) from three. And after re-watching the game tape Wednesday, Dinwiddie said one thing stuck out to him regarding his struggles:
“The shot quality for myself is a little bit poor just from the standpoint of half of them are like five seconds or less on the shot clock,” he said after practice at the HSS Training Facility. “Nobody in the league is pretty proficient at that… Obviously, any of those are gonna be tougher shots and it’s on me to convert some of those and be able to save some of those plays.”
Dinwiddie has been unable to generate shots at the rim with Joel Embiid hanging back in the Sixers' drop coverage. The pick-and-roll defense's weakness lies in the mid-range, an area Dinwiddie has been below average throughout his career. The nine-year veteran is shooting just 41 percent in the mid-range this season, ranking in the 33rd percentile among NBA point guards.
Throughout his career, Dinwiddie has excelled when attacking the rim to set up his three-point shot. He said Wednesday that Brooklyn's ability to push the pace and create opportunities early in the shot clock will be key in generating those looks against Philadelphia:
“You wanna attack early in transition. The best quality shots typically are early in the shot clock, just by the numbers and the points per possession,” he said. “They tell us all the time. Kick it ahead a lot… We just have to get into our plays a little bit quicker. That’s one of the things that in this series so far we haven’t done a great at and that we kinda drilled in the practice today.”
Vaughn echoed Spencer Dinwiddie's message of pushing the pace when asked how the point guard can snap out of his struggles.
“I think Spencer has the ability to do a multitude of things for us. And that is getting out in transition when the ball is kicked ahead to him and also him kicking the ball ahead,” Vaughn said. “So that piece of it, I think we can play faster. It is without a doubt that we're playing below the pace that we averaged during the season. So we have to increase that.”
The first step to increasing that pace is securing defensive rebounds, an area Brooklyn has been abysmal against Philly. The Sixers dominated the offensive boards through two games on their way to a 39-3 second-chance points advantage. The Nets rank 28th in defensive rebounding rate this season. However, their trap and rotate defense on Embiid has made securing misses even more difficult.
“I think sometimes it’s tough the way we’re scrambling defensively. We’re just not in a good position to rebound,” Nic Claxton said. “They’ve got guys sitting in the dunker on those plays, but the difference on the glass can’t be as big.”
Vaughn noted that his team will need to commit to a gang-rebounding mentality if they hope to gain an advantage in transition.
“I think the biggest part of that is you got to come back and get the rebound,” the coach said. “If multiple people get the rebound, then all those dudes can push it. But we haven't been getting the rebound. So the pace has been slow. You're playing against a set defense. That's the difference.”
“We addressed it today. We named it, we put it in perspective. We reality-checked it. All of the above to understand that everyone has to come back and hit (somebody) every single time.”
Brooklyn ranks 23rd in pace this season, a product of their poor rebounding. The Nets could survive playing against set defenses when they boasted Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, two of the greatest iso scorers of all time. But with a roster that does not include a single All-Star? Not so much.
“If you had an iso player who could get a shot every single time and produce a high-quality shot, then it's different,” Vaughn shared. “We're trying to play collectively as a unit and we need each other to help each other out to get high-quality shots. So it just puts it at a premium that we play faster, get shots earlier, especially when they're matched up to our advantage. Where, a cross-match sometimes, we want to attack that sooner and quicker.”
Spencer Dinwiddie and the Nets find themselves backed into a corner as they try to stay alive in the loaded Eastern Conference. Brooklyn will look to ramp up the pace Thursday when they return to Barclays Center for a must-win Game 3.