Ben Simmons, Nic Claxton provide versatility to defend stars

CLEVELAND — There’s solely a lot schemes and programs can do to overcome personnel, and the Nets simply didn’t have the latter. 

Brooklyn didn’t have the fitting our bodies to defend the sort of stars they’d face within the playoffs and in opposition to the elite championship contenders. 

Until now. 

They’re out to show that the return of Ben Simmons and maturation of Nic Claxton — giving them three starters with 7-foot wingspans — make them higher suited to deal with star bigs resembling Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid, and stud wings like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. 

Cleveland poses a distinct type of check on Monday, however Brooklyn is assured a extra versatile lineup is healthier ready to deal with a wide range of threats. 

“Yeah, I think we answered a lot of those questions,” Jacque Vaughn mentioned. “Being able to have multiple bodies like we talked about around Giannis, seven turnovers for him.” 

Ben Simmons guards Giannis Antetokounmpo during the Nets' win over the Bucks on Dec. 23.
Ben Simmons guards Giannis Antetokounmpo throughout the Nets’ win over the Bucks on Dec. 23.
Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

The Cavaliers have the most effective scoring margin in all the NBA, and smaller guards resembling Donovan Mitchell (28.9 factors) and Darius Garland (7.8 assists). But in contrast to the outmatched roster that proved each too brief and too shorthanded in final season’s first-round sweep by the hands of Boston, this group has extra completed defenders to assist Kevin Durant — and extra versatile ones. 

“Absolutely,” mentioned Kyrie Irving. “I imply, I can’t essentially guard all people on the court docket and on the perimeter. So when KD can guard Jrue [Holiday], I can guard Jevon Carter, Royce [O’Neale] can guard Giannis or Ben can guard Giannis, I feel our lineup is so interchangeable that it’s a optimistic for us. It’s a power of ours. And then you’ve two of the highest guys guarding [isolations] in Nic and KD. 

“I mean, it makes a huge difference out there and leading league in guarding [isolation]. So anytime people are going out and we know that we have a great chance to make them miss, and when you can make professionals miss at that high level, then you know pretty much we’re getting out on offense and putting together some quality possessions.” 

The Cavs (22-12) are a distinct type of workforce, with Claxton going up in opposition to his Nets predecessor in All-Star middle Jarrett Allen however then smaller guards attacking off the dribble. Mitchell and Garland are simply 6-1, which means Irving received’t be at a matchup drawback. 

But the larger wings like Tatum and Brown have confirmed problematic, and Brooklyn can have to take care of longer stars down the street within the playoffs. Adding the 7-foot wingspan of Simmons and 3-and-D abilities of O’Neale to Durant and a quickly bettering Claxton ought to make them higher suited to achieve this. 

“Definitely maturation from him,” Vaughn mentioned of Claxton. “Give him a lot of love for doing it on both ends of the floor for us, and luxury for us to have him and KD in at the same time for length, and then they can play fast also. So he’s grown as a young man as a player.” 

Nic Claxton offers the Nets versatility on defense.
Nic Claxton provides the Nets versatility on protection.
Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

Simmons has held opponents to 44.2 p.c capturing, the stingiest of the Nets. Claxton was next-best among the many Brooklyn regulars. 

Claxton had eight rebounds and three steals in opposition to Milwaukee, whereas Simmons added 11 boards. And extra necessary, after Antetokounmpo had repeatedly wrecked their recreation plans prior to now — together with a 43-point eruption within the third recreation of the season on Oct. 26 — the Nets duo mixed to maintain him to a extra manageable 26 factors with seven turnovers on Friday. 

“[Antetokounmpo] is gonna attack, he’s gonna try and get to the rim. Overall as a team, we did a great job containing him and kind of showing him a lot of bodies. And then for me just being physical. I’m able to get down there and hit with you, so I’m willing to do that,” Simmons mentioned. 

Durant was impressed with Simmons’ “incredible” protection on Antetokounmpo on Friday night time. 

“[Simmons] stayed with it all game and was able to make life tough, and we did a solid job of showing them a crowd to make Giannis kick it out and turn the ball over,” Durant mentioned. “Seven turnovers, Ben was the catalyst for that.”

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