The Nets have had chemistry issues against good teams

The Nets have had chemistry issues against good teams

Mikal Bridges was direct when he assessed the Nets’ 121-99 loss to the 76ers on Sunday, their biggest defeat of a young season.

He pointed out several times that the Nets had to be on the same page on the court. It’s a reminder that their chemistry is still developing since last season’s trade deadline.

But Bridges won’t let that be an excuse.

“We just have to be together through everything, because against good teams, if you’re not good, they’ll pick you apart,” Bridges said.

This is the main reason why the Nets struggle against winning teams. They are 2-6 against teams above .500.

Consider their last three losses to the Celtics, Heat, and 76ers. The three teams occupy the top four positions in the Eastern Region standings. All three had All-Star performances — Jaylen Brown, Jimmy Butler, Joel Embiid — like them.

That’s something the Nets don’t have with Ben Simmons injured.

The same can be said about the loss to the Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

But the four teams also have something else in common: a core that has mostly been together for years.

Even with the Celtics adding Jrue Holiday, the Bucks trading for Damian Lillard and the 76ers trading James Harden, there are clearly defined roles on each team. The Nets are still figuring that out.

It partly explains the lapses that ended the first half of the last two games as they allowed a 14-0 run to the Heat and a 15-0 run to the 76ers.

“Playing against the top teams in the league, obviously that’s a good test for you and that’s going to be our challenge,” Nick Claxton said. “We also care about working against other teams but when you go into encounters like this, we definitely need that win.”

The truth is that through 13 games, the Nets are a solid middle-of-the-road team. They’re good enough to be in close games but don’t have the horses to match the Eastern elite or second-tier groups.

It’s not dark but it’s honest. The Nets need time to trust each other, and despite some success, it’s an ongoing process that will pit them against good to great teams.

Of course, injuries are also important.

The Nets’ starting lineup on opening night played just one game together. Claxton and Cam Johnson missed most of the first 10 games of the season.

Cam Thomas, the Nets’ leading scorer, has missed the last five games with a sprained ankle. Simmons’ promising start was interrupted by another nerve injury to his back, which sidelined him for the last six matches.

“It definitely hurts to miss those guys, but we have to hold down the fort when they’re gone,” Claxton said.

Injuries have certainly prevented the Nets from reaching another level. But it’s part of a larger chemistry problem that’s still a work in progress. Until that improves, they will continue to lag behind better teams who show them the level they hope to reach.

“We’re not there yet,” Bridges said. “There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just that we haven’t been there long. But we just have to figure it out.”

    (Tags for translation) Brooklyn Nets

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