The Whiteboard: Nets precision, Clippers meltdown and the Trae Young stopper

Brooklyn Nets, The Whiteboard

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The NBA Play-In Tournament kicked off last night with the Nets and Timberwolves advancing and seizing the No. 7 seed in each conference. Tonight, the Atlanta Hawks will take on the Charlotte Hornets, and the New Orleans Pelicans will take on the San Antonio Spurs, with the winner of each game getting one more chance to try and earn a playoff spot.

Here are some details about what went down last night and what to expect tonight.

The Brooklyn Nets had their way with the Cavs’ interior defense

The Brooklyn Nets were incredibly precise with their decision-making on dribble penetration and they took advantage of Cleveland’s defensive limitations. The Cavs ended up with Evan Mobley on Bruce Brown for a few different possessions, perhaps to give him a bit of freedom to roam and help protect in the middle of the floor. But the Nets were able to attack on the opposite side of the floor and get to the basket without any true rim protection in their path.

On plays where Mobley was able to park himself in the lane and wall off the basket, the Nets picked apart the defense with their pull-up shooting. And when Mobley wasn’t on the floor, the Nets got whatever they wanted — scoring at a rate of 140 points per 100 possessions in those 13 minutes.

For the game, the Nets finished with just 35 drives but shot 11-of-14 off those drives and created another 3 assists. They were also 10-of-18 on pull-up jumpers inside the arc. Whether they chose to stop and pop or take it all the way to the rim, once the ball was dribbled inside the 3-point line it was almost always a positive outcome for Brooklyn.

The Clippers looked like the inexperienced team in a close game

Yesterday I pointed out just how much more postseason experience this Clippers’ roster had — Paul George and Reggie Jackson together have played in roughly twice as many playoff games as the entire Timberwolves rotation combined. But when things get tight in the fourth quarter it was the Clippers who appeared flustered.

Reggie Jackson was 1-of-7 from the field with 3 turnovers in the fourth quarter. And while you can attribute a lot of that messiness to the hyper-aggressive defense of Patrick Beverley the Clippers didn’t seem to have an effective counter. Jackson spent a ton of time with the ball in his hands trying to create often at the expense of letting Paul George work against a more advantageous matchup.

In the clutch, they looked like the team just trying to power through and force things, rather than finding their advantages and exploiting them. They’ll get another chance to secure an actual playoff spot but they’ll need to beat the winner of the Pelicans and Spurs, teams who could bring the same youth and desperation as the Timberwolves used to get the win last night.

Terry Rozier might be the Trae Young stopper?

Trae Young had a tough time with the Hornets during the regular season, averaging just 20.8 points across their four matchups and shooting just 37.7 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from beyond the arc. One of the key factors may have been the defense of Terry Rozier.

There is a lot of noise in the NBA’s individual defensive matchup stats but it’s still noteworthy that Young managed just six points this season in the 77 possessions for which Rozier was his primary defender. He was 2-of-12 on those possessions and 0-of-5 from beyond the arc and maybe hurt by some small sample size randomness in his shooting percentages but Rozier and the Hornets also did a really good job of keeping Young off the free-throw line.

On the season, Young averaged 17.3 drives per game, shot 49.8 percent on those drives and drew a foul on 6.6 percent of them. Against the Hornets, he averaged just 10.8 drives per game, shot 40.0 percent on those drives and drew just one single foul — which works out to a foul on 2.3 percent of his drives.

The Hornets haven’t been a great defensive team this season but Rozier seems to have been able to knock Young off his rhythm and in a single-elimination scenario that could be a huge edge for Charlotte.

Other NBA stories:

With the WNBA Draft wrapped it’s time to start considering those Rookie of the Year bets.

What you see when you look at the Brooklyn Nets might say more about you than it does about them.

Two great looks at the nature of NBA defense — how Herb Jones represents the future and why we miss all the positive things Nikola Jokic does at that end of the floor.

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