Nets’ slow starts have become a consistent issue

Through their first six games of the season, while alternating losses and wins, the Nets have been most consistent at getting off to slow starts.

Aside from their most complete win of the season, against the Wizards on Monday, the Nets have struggled early in games, with Friday serving as the latest example. The Pacers outscored them 38-26 in the first quarter and led by as many as 16 points in the second quarter before the Nets settled in and mounted a comeback for a 105-98 win.

“We’ve just gotta do the little stuff on the defensive side of the ball,” Kevin Durant said. “I feel like we turned it over like three times in a row there in the first. We gave up like three or four offensive rebounds in the first, and then that got them going at the 3-point line, and so they felt good about themselves to start. So it’s the little stuff.

“Teams are gonna come here and feel like they’ve got to do little things to beat us: offensive rebounds, muck the game up, get steals, clog the paint, stuff like that. So we’ve gotta be aware of that. Teams are gonna try to start off and hit us early first to get the lead, and I think we did a good job of fighting back.”

Kevin Durant says the Nets have to find a way to get off to quicker starts.
Kevin Durant says the Nets have to find a way to get off to quicker starts.
Corey Sipkin

Durant credited the Nets’ second unit, including veteran big man Paul Millsap, with turning the game around. Millsap scored all eight of his points during a stretch of nine-plus minutes in the second quarter, helping the Nets wipe away the deficit and take a three-point lead into halftime.

Still, the Nets will have to address their rough starts as they continue to search for consistency in their young season. Taking out the win over the Wizards, in which they stormed to an 18-point lead after 12 minutes, the Nets have been outscored by 33 points combined in the first quarters of their other five games.

“It is something that we definitely have to figure out,” said LaMarcus Aldridge, who scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half Friday while joining the NBA’s 20,000-point club. “We just got to understand that we are one of the favorites so every team is going to come in here and just want to give us an ‘L.’ Guys are coming in here and can shoot the ball, whether they have all year or all their career. Guys [are] just playing up for us so we got to make sure we are always ready for that.”

Nic Claxton (non-COVID illness) and Millsap (personal reasons) were ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Pistons.

Durant was fined $25,000 for throwing the ball into the stands in the third quarter of Friday’s game. He was not ejected — referee Sean Wright told a pool reporter he should have been — but said he expected a fine.

“I’m sure a hefty fine is coming, but I don’t mind giving — I’m sure the NBA office is gonna use that towards a college fund,” Durant said.