SAN FRANCISCO — The Hack-A-Clax is in full effect. And fresh off the best game of his career, Nic Claxton said if opponents want to keep fouling him, he’ll take it.
“I definitely take it as a challenge,” said Claxton following the Nets’ 120-116 win at Golden State. “I don’t care. If team’s are fouling me it’s almost a sign of respect. They can’t stop us, our team defensively and I just got to go up and knock the shots down. I’m going to take on that challenge every single time.
“It honestly gets me going, gets me activated because when I start getting fouled I want to go back to the line. If that’s what teams want to do then I’m going take on that challenge. And yeah I’ll be ready.”
Claxton went just 6 of 15 from the free throw line on Sunday, entering play a 47.1 percent free throw shooter this season. He went 1 of 6 during a 15-3 Warriors run in the third quarter, repeatedly sent to the stripe.
“Yeah, that’s mental part of it, that mental and physical,” said Jacque Vaughn, who left Claxton in. “This is great for Nic, because he’s gonna be counted on and when the playoffs come around. And if a team wants to use that strategy, he’ll continue to gain confidence in getting to the line and shooting. So we kept him out there. He’ll continue to be out there if a team wants to take that strategy.”
Regardless of how much longer Kevin Durant is out, the Nets are going to be playing Kyrie Irving in pick-and-rolls and Ben Simmons off the ball. That means Simmons has a lot of work to do on his screening.
“With the [past] five quarters you saw us have shooters on the floor and the basketball in [Irving’s] hands, [Simmons] setting screens, rolling, putting pressure on the defense,” Vaughn said before Sunday’s win. “Now we’ve got to be able to learn how to play with both [Simmons] and [Claxton] in the game. Just from a rebounding, from a size-wise [perspective]. It puts pressure on us if those two aren’t in the game.
“So we’ve got to figure out how to play whether that is [Simmons] is in pick-and-roll and he’s a screener — which we have to get him better at — because he does have the ability to roll and still be able to find [Claxton] at the rim or find shooters. Because of his size, we’ve got to be able to do both: Have him on the floor with [Claxton], be able to play in the pocket as a screener and then still have the basketball in [Irving’s] hands.”
With Simmons — who had seven points and 11 assists on Sunday against Golden State — largely playing on the ball, the Nets managed just 23 3-point attempts in a loss at San Antonio on Tuesday and 26 on Thursday in Phoenix. For a team with Joe Harris, Seth Curry and Yuta Watanabe, that’s not enough.
Putting Irving at the point and Simmons as a screening forward opened the offense up in the fourth quarter against the Suns, and in a win over Utah on Friday. The results were immediate, going 18 of 41 from deep.
“The first piece is the amount of 3s that we shot versus Utah, which is a pretty good number,” Vaughn said. “It gives us the ability just points-per-shot to at the end of the day [to maximize] the value of that shot. We can get it in transition, means the defense isn’t set. It also creates the ability for us to get downhill and get into the paint … and we can do it early in the clock. That piece of it works to our advantage.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr noted as much pregame.
“They’re probably the best 3-point shooting team in the league,” Kerr said. “They have so many different guys who can shoot if you have a breakdown and they move the ball, they’re going to be open and you’re really vulnerable.”
Sunday was the first time Curry faced his brother Stephen Curry since joining the Nets.
Durant still hasn’t played in front of fans at Chase Center since leaving the Warriors for Brooklyn in 2019.
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