DETROIT — In his first season as a head coach, Steve Nash just wanted his Nets to get the basics of his defensive scheme down, to be able to crawl before they walked.
Now a year in — and having to rely on that defense more than they expected — they’re going to have to trot. Maybe even run.
“We can’t rely on [offense],” James Harden said. “We can’t rely on our shooting ability. That’s like a bonus. If we’re making shots, it’s going to be a lot easier for us; but if we continue to rebound and continue to do the things that you guys know we talk about every single time — and I’m sure Steve does as well — if we can keep that under control, then we’ll be a top 5, top 10 defensive team.”
Against all expectations, the Nets emerged from Friday’s win over the Pistons as just that, a top 10 defense — sixth in Defensive Rating (102.8) and third in field-goal defense (.417). Only their vulnerability on the glass keeps them from being even better.