Kevin Durant sees fouls as cause of Nets’ defensive issues

Kevin Durant doesn’t see much of a structural problem with the Nets’ defense even though the team has allowed 120 or more points in three straight games. But he did point to a major problem: reducing fouls.

“I don’t think we were that bad,” Durant said after Monday’s practice. “I know we lost, but I see it as, like I said, making stupid fouls. That makes the game seem even slower when you put them on the free throw line. They get points every time they go down, but we actually stop them when the ball is live.”

The Nets have lost three of their last four, and in those three losses they have given up 23, 34 and 49 free throws. The latest, a loss at Atlanta in a game that saw the Nets drop to 10th place in the Eastern Conference, was particularly galling.

The Hawks shot just 41.9 percent from the field on Saturday, and Brooklyn’s opponent’s field goal percentage has been good on a game-for-game basis recently.

But that doesn’t matter if the Nets are allowing teams to shoot nearly 50 free throws.

Kevin Durant defends against Bogdan Bogdanovic of the Hawks.

“It’s just the execution and the finish,” Durant said. “Like, you defend someone directly and it’s just in your mind, the drive when you see the ball is to reach, you know what I’m saying? And the referee sees the trigger, it doesn’t matter if you touch the ball or not, they’re going to call a foul if you put your hand in it.

“So I think initially, our defense at the point of attack is solid and then we can end up, like I said, fouling. We can definitely be better and we can correct certain plays, but in general, I think we have good intentions.”

On possession, the Nets rank 20th in the league in defense this season. But given the inconsistency with their lineup, it’s hard to tell if that really means much.

“It’s the NBA. We’re not going to completely stop an entire team,” Durant said. “We look at Milwaukee [last Thursday], they shot, what, 44 percent from the field? That’s pretty solid for a team that has one of the best players in the world. So we play a team [Atlanta on Saturday] and the other day, they shot, what, 42, 43 percent from the field? They’re shooting 42 percent, that’s pretty solid on the defensive end of the ball.”

Reducing fouls, in theory, should be an easy thing to do. But the Nets have struggled in that area all season, ranking 25th in opposing free throw attempts.

“Just being in the right places,” said Bruce Brown. “Can not reach. I really be smart on defense. There have been some terrible fouls and we are fouling some of their best free throw shooters.”

Brown is ready for Tuesday’s game against Houston after battling illness.

Goran Dragic remains in Atlanta after testing positive for COVID-19.

Nash said Seth Curry, who has been in and out of the lineup with an ankle injury, didn’t do much in practice Monday. The team is weighing whether or not to sit him out for the rest of the regular season in preparation for the play-in game.

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