Nets Playoffs Preview vs. Hawks: Three keys & certainties

In case you didn’t hear, the Brooklyn Nets are in the Playoffs. They’ll be facing off against the East’s first seed in the Atlanta Hawks, who won 22 more games than Brooklyn this season. In anticipation of the Nets’ third-straight Playoffs appearance, here’s three keys for Brooklyn to win the series come away with at least one victory and three certainties to expect heading in.

Three keys:

  • Go under Teague and Schroeder screens: The respective breakout seasons for Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroeder have been pivotal to the Hawks’ successes, which is bad news for the Nets, whose point guard rotation is, let’s say, not best equipped to chase these speedsters around. Deron Williams and Jarrett Jack are not very fleet of foot, while Teague and Schroeder wreck havoc swooping by defenders on the pick-and-roll. Teague averaged 14.8 points and nine rebounds on 47.9% shooting from the field against the Nets this season and Schroeder 11.7 points on 53.8% shooting. An upside for Brooklyn is that the two aren’t superb three-point shooters, with Teague shooting 34.3% from deep and Schroeder 35.1%. It’s for this reason that Lionel Hollins should have his ones go under every screen with Teague or Schroeder as the ball-handler lest the Hawks’ duo kill the Nets with their speed. Brooklyn would essentially be hoping Tague and Schroeder don’t hit those pull-ups consistently, but it would beat almost certainly giving up easy layups every trip down.
  • Shorten rotation and hope for best from bench: Brooklyn’s bench has been, well, bad. The Nets get outscored by seven points per 100 possessions with Williams and Thaddeus Young off the floor, and Jarrett Jack is fifth on the team in minutes per game despite dragging them down on both ends. Brooklyn’s rotation has changes seemingly every week, with 14 different Nets appearing in 30 games. The rotation has somewhat stabilized as of late, but Brooklyn’s shallow depth warrants further tightening. With the Nets’ starting lineup likely to be Williams-Brown-Johnson-Young-Lopez - which has started in 19 of Brooklyn’s last 21 games and is outscoring opponents by 8.9 points per 100 possessions in 256 minutes - the only other Nets that should play for long stretches in this series should be Bojan Bogdanovic, Mason Plumlee, Alan Anderson and Jarrett Jack. Bogdanovic has been a different player since the All-Star break, attacking the rim with gusto and shooting with confidence. He’s averaged 11.6 points on 42.9% shooting from deep with a true-shooting clip of 61.4%. He along with Alan Anderson will bring some necessary outside shooting and perimeter defense to the mix. Plumlee is simply Brooklyn’s only solid big off the bench, but Earl Clark could play spot minutes and stretch four it up, which would be huge against these Hawks. Then there’s Jarrett Jack, who despite the on/off numbers is primed for a big game in this series, because that’s what he does. Everybody else on the Nets’ roster will get run out of the gym, and even those listed shouldn’t be playing much.
  • Transition play: Breaking news, the Nets are old, slow and unathletic. Well, the additions of Brown and Young have somewhat absolved that, but it’ll take more than a couple of able bodies to improve Brooklyn’s horrid transition game on both ends. The Nets give up 1.15 points per play in transition, sixth worst in the league, and score 1.04 points per play on the break, which is fourth worst. These numbers need to improve, especially since the Nets won’t get anything easy against the Hawks in a halfcourt setting. Thing is, expecting a turnaround in this series is a pipe dream. There isn’t one problem, it’s a roster-wide issue of being a step and mental beat behind.
    Players don’t stop the ball, and when they try they get beat. They don’t hustle back, they give up too easily on closeouts, assignments are mixed up, etc. On the other end, the Nets struggle with execution and beating the opposition down the court, neither of which will go away with the flip of a switch. This will have to be a major emphasis in practice to see any positive returns.

Three certainties:

  • Kyle Korver is going to be an absolute killer: When isn’t he, right? Well, in the Nets’ case, the 49.2% three-point machine’s gravity will be amplified by the lack of capable defenders to stick on him. Korver is among the top of the league in distance traveled per 48 minutes, running around screens and opening up a million opportunities every second he’s on the floor. You can read a much more in-depth piece on just how much Korver impacts Atlanta’s offense (and opposing defenses) here, but the point remains: he’s an autonomous shooting cyborg that the Nets have zero answers for. Let’s look at the options for players to chase after the league’s deadliest marksman: Bogdanovic, Anderson and Jack are too slow. Williams will get fatigued and likely won’t have much of an effect contesting him. Sergey Karasev hasn’t played in a month. That leaves the most “obvious” choice in Brown, who will be starting at the two anyway. Brown has some tools to at least bother Korver - in a couple of seasons. He’s a tremendous leaper that has blocked a few jumpers, he puts in effort on the defensive end and is pretty quick. But asking him to have the recognition and patience to glue himself onto Korver for at least four games at this point in his career is like asking a high school honor student to pass the bar. It’ll be fun to watch Brown try, but expecting it to work out for the Nets is wishful thinking.
  • The Nets are only winning in a shootout: Brooklyn allowed 103.3 points per 100 possessions in February. In March, that number jumped to 106 and in April to 108.1. Their post-All-Star Defensive Rating of 105.6 ranked them 23rd in the league. The Nets are not a good defensive team, not since trading Kevin Garnett. The frontcourt of Lopez and Young are severely lacking in the rim protection department. Young, a second-round pick in his first year, is likely Brooklyn’s best overall defender. Point being, if the Nets manage to steal a game or two, it won’t be on the defensive end. Hollins may be a defensive wiz, but you need to apply a decent defensive roster to the scheme to come away with a team that doesn’t resemble five turnstiles. This isn’t the case though, so the Nets will have to try and force the Hawks into a barnburner every night. Good news is, the Nets have proven that they can have ridiculously good shooting nights. In fact, Brooklyn has been a top ten offensive team since the All-Star break, which also helps their case. 
  • The Nets aren’t winning more than one game: Sorry. The Hawks are really good. I’m not even sure this can even be labeled as a “bold prediction,” but there you go. See you on Sunday.



Nets 101, Magic 88: The Nets Are Going Back to the Playoffs

After losing three of their last four games in the final week of the regular season, the Brooklyn Nets entered their 82nd game needing a win against the Orlando Magic and an Indiana Pacers loss to the Memphis Grizzlies to overcome their half-game deficit and re-take the Eastern Conference’s final playoff seed. A win at home against the Magic was an absolute-must in any Nets playoff scenario - before the Pacers even factored into the discussion - and in the team’s biggest game of their 2014-15 season, it was rookie Bojan Bogdanovic who carried the offense with his career-high 28 points in a 101-88 victory over the Orlando Magic.

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Three Man Weave: Week 25 Edition

The Nets gon’ Nets, I guess. Two-plus months of solid play had catapulted the Brooklyn Nets back into the Eastern Conference’s playoff picture, despite the team’s underwhelming (and under .500) record and inconsistent track record through a significant stretch (i.e. most) of their 2014-15 season. It was fun, and we all got to make “the East, amirite?” jokes, but a six-game winning streak and some inspired recent play gave the Nets some pretensions to legitimacy after claiming the seventh seed and playoff tiebreakers over the Indiana Pacers and Charlotte Hornets. A .500 stretch in their last six games put them into a tie with those Pacers for the East’s eighth seed, with two games left to the season.

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Nets 86, Bulls 113: The Nets Fall Down….Again

The Brooklyn Nets fell down against the Chicago Bulls 113-96. The loss knocked them temporarily down to the ninth spot in the Eastern Conference and out of the playoffs. Much like the loss against the Bucks, the Nets fell apart in the third quarter.

Third quarters haven’t been the specialty of the Nets lately. They were only down two to the Milwaukee Bucks at halftime in their last loss, but that lead ballooned in the third. The same thing happened against the Bulls. The Bulls were able to increase a 7 point halftime lead to a 22 point lead at the end of the third quarter. It was a poor effort on both ends during the quarter. The Nets had four field goals and five turnovers in the quarter. The defense wasn’t protecting the rim, which was a theme all game, or guarding the three point line. 

The Nets defense was not up to par against this revitalized Chicago Bulls team. The Chicago guards were dicing up the Nets defense with drive and kicks to open shooters or passes to an open Pau Gasol. Tom Thibodeau’s squad had 26 assists on 44 made shots. A now healthy Derrick Rose and Aaron Brooks combined for 14 assists on their own.

Interior defense hasn’t been a specialty of the Nets and that weakness was on full display. Pau Gasol had an easy 22 points and 11 rebounds against Brook Lopez, while Taj Gibso cruised to 15 points and 9 rebounds against Thad Young. The Nets had a three total blocks, two of which were by point guard Deron Williams. The Bulls were allowed to shoot 50% from the field over the course of the game. NIkola Mirotic added to the scoring with 26 points of his own on 6-11 shooting from behind the arc.

On the other side of the court, the Nets weren’t sharing the ball as much. They had 12 assists on 32 made baskets. Instead of dishing to the open man the Nets were isoing for a difficult shot or missing open shots. The Nets shot a poor 37% from the field against a stout Bulls defense. Most of the Nets starting lineup struggled from the field. Deron Williams shot 3-13, while Thad Young shot 3-11. Brook Lopez was limited to 11 shots by Taj Gibson and Pau Gasol.

Bojan Bogdanovich was the only Net that looked like he was playing for his playoff life. His 17 points on 5-11 shooting led the whole team. He was the best shooter on the Nets and it wasn’t even close. He shot 3-6 from three, which were the only threes the Nets hit all game. Bogdanovich’s minutes have been more consistent in April so these type of performances aren’t out of the ordinary. He’s going to be huge for the Nets if they make it to the playoffs.

Brooklyn Net playoff hopes are now controlled by the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers own the eighth seed with two games remaining. They have to win out against the Washington Wizards and Memphis Grizzlies if they are going to get into the playoffs. If they lose one of those games and the Nets win against the Orlando Magic the Nets will own the eighth seed.

The Nets will play the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. ET. One way or another the Nets fate will be decided that night.


Nets 73, Bucks 96: How to lose a third quarter

A 43-41 halftime deficit was as close as the Nets would get to the Bucks in the second half as Milwaukee clinched the sixth seed by outscoring Brooklyn 53-32 after halftime. The Nets shot just 32.5 percent from the field for the game as the lengthy defense from Milwaukee forced 21 turnovers and tallied seven blocks.

Jason Kidd is the first head coach to take two different teams to the playoffs in his first two seasons according to STATS. Despite trading his starting point guard and losing a rookie of the year candidate, the Bucks have clinched a higher seed than the first team Kidd coached even though they’ve spent over $30 million less in total salary this season.


So how does a veteran team lose a second half so badly against a team led by a guy nicknamed the Greek Freak? Let’s find out.

How to lose a third quarter 30-18, by the Brooklyn Nets

The third quarter was so promising, mainly because of the effort of Deron Williams to drive and kick to open shooters. But the rest of the Nets didn’t hold up to their end of the bargain in the second half, hitting only five shots in the quarter.

Bojan Open

Bogdanovic missed this 3-pointer, along with two others in the game to finish 1-for-4 from beyond the arc.

Shortly after the miss from Bogdanovic, Johnson had a similar chance set up by Williams. The result was the same, while the Bucks hit 13 of their 18 attempts in the same quarter.

Johnson Open

The missed shots early shook up the Brooklyn offense while the Bucks padded their lead.

A team that’s comprised of so many veterans doesn’t simply lose to a young team by missing a few shots. This third quarter was all about the Nets struggling against the length of Milwaukee. Oh, and plays like this. (Cue Benny Hill Theme Song)

We take a break from the regularly scheduled Milwaukee energy with a new development on the case of the missing jumpshots. Williams doesn’t seem to know where the 3-pointers have gone, because he was confident enough to walk away as his backcourt mate attempted this wide open shot.

Finally, the success of Milwaukee was guided by Giannis Antetokounmpo in the third quarter. He finished with 13 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, a block and a steal for the game. However, The stat sheet doesn’t show this jumpshot that led to a mean mug for the ages.

The Nets will attempt to hold pace for a playoff spot against the Bulls on Monday at 7:30 p.m. ET.


Nets 117, Wizards 80: It’s All Good (Except for Alan Anderson)

The Brooklyn Nets again found themselves in a favorable situation against a team ahead of them in the playoff standings, and this time thoroughly dismantled the John Wall-less Washington Wizards in a 117-80 rout. In the last week the Nets have faced a Toronto Raptors team that was missing DeMar DeRozan and won by five points, a ten-point victory Monday against the LaMarcus Aldridge, Nic Batum, and Chris Kaman-less Portland Trail Blazers, and then a three-point loss to the Atlanta Hawks without Paul Millsap. Lacking its All-Star point guard Friday due to self-imposed rest reasons, the Washington Wizards were lost on offense, scoring just 80 points on 39% shooting with 21 total turnovers, but even more so on the defensive end, where the Nets moved the ball (29 assists) to find good looks on offense and shot 50.6% from the floor and 65.2% from the three-point line.

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Trending in Brooklyn: Nets Good at Basketball? Nets Good at Basketball!

The last few weeks have been something of a revelation for the Brooklyn Nets. About a month ago the playoffs looked like a long shot, but the Nets caught fire at the end of March and have been able to keep it going into April, and now find themselves in a tie with the Boston Celtics for seventh in the Eastern Conference.

So how did Brooklyn manage to rattle off this series of wins? Let’s take a look at what’s been trending in Brooklyn to find out:

The Nets Have Been Good at Everything

The Nets are 7-3 in the last 10 games with one of the losses being a tightly contested game to the Eastern Conference-leading Atlanta Hawks, and have probably been playing their best basketball of the season.

How has Brooklyn managed this impressive turnaround? By being better at everything. Like, everything.

This is how things have shaken out for the Nets in the last 10 games:

  • Brooklyn is shooting 46.6 percent in the last 10 games and 48.7 percent in the last five, compared to 45.3 for the season.
  • Three-point shooting is up to 34.4 percent in the last 10 and 38.9 in the last five, compared to 33 for the season.
  • The offensive rating has shot up from 102.0 to 108.0. The defensive rating has increased two points, but the offense is making up for it.
  • The Nets’ turnover percentage is 11.7 percent, down from 14.4 for the season.
  • The assist percentage is also slightly up, resulting in an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.12 in the last 10. The Nets’ assist-to-turnover ratio for the season is 1.51.
  • Brooklyn is scoring 52.8 points in the paint each game, compared to 45.1 for the full season. This could be due to Brook Lopez’s improved play.

I could keep going, but I think that gets the point across pretty well — Brooklyn has been playing very good basketball lately.


Screenshot 2015-04-09 17.04.30

Click to enlarge

The above image from Basketball-Reference shows Markel Brown’s stats from the last 10 games. Stats marked in green indicate an improvement over his season average, while stats marked in red indicate that the number is worse than his season average. So this looks really good! As long as you don’t look at it for very long, anyway.

Markel shot 37 percent from the field in the last 10 games… and it was an improvement. Yikes. Brown is shooting 36.6 percent on the season, and he’s shooting an alarmingly low 44.3 percent on attempts right under the basket. But perhaps the most interesting trend with Markel is a pattern in his jump shooting that can be seen in the shot chart below.


Markel Brown’s shot chart for the entire 2014-15 season

From the left side of the court and the top of the key Brown is knocking down 48 percent of his three-pointers, but when moving to the right side he’s shooting 1-25 — that’s four percent! We’re obviously dealing with very small sample sizes here and I’m not sure if this actually means anything. It’s at least interesting though.

Despite the poor shooting numbers, Brown has been an intriguing player since breaking into the rotation around the All-Star break, mostly due to his athleticism on a team that so desperately needs it. While his shooting numbers aren’t great, it’s nice to see him get the opportunity and this playing time should at the least help his development moving forward.

Man on Fire: Deron Williams

This week’s Man on Fire is Deron Williams, and HE IS ABLAZE.


Williams has been in the midst of one of the worst shooting seasons of his career — shooting 39.6 percent for the season — but is drilling 45 percent of his shots in the last 10 games, and over 51(!) percent from beyond the arc. He’s made at least one three-pointer in nine consecutive games, and over that stretch he’s splashed four or more triples in three contests.

Now that I’ve successfully hyped up his play as of late I’m gonna have to go ahead and rain on my own parade — this is likely not at all sustainable. Take a look at the shot chart:


Deron Williams last 10 games shot chart

Yes, Williams is throwing fire from long-range, but that’s about it. He’s having the same problems at the rim that he’s had all season long, and unless he finds a way to turn that around then his percentage will plummet back to the sub-40s as soon as his jumper regresses to the mean. Luckily for the Nets, there’s only about a week and a half left in the regular season, so there’s a chance he could still keep this up as Brooklyn tries to hold on to one of the final playoff spots in the East.


Nets 111, Hawks 114: Dang it

Much like our first President, I have teeth made of wood… no, wait, I cannot tell a lie. I sat down at halftime of the Brooklyn Nets - Atlanta Hawks game to begin writing this recap. I thought it was over. I thought the East-leading Hawks would brush the Nets aside like those crumbs that you know you should throw in the garbage, but c’mon, you can’t see them in the carpet. Sorry, where was I? Oh yes, during the first three quarters we witnessed Brooklyn play excellent offensive basketball and non-existent defensive basketball. The fourth quarter didn’t see better D but it did see more missed shots, which allowed the Nets to take the lead with only a few minutes left in the game. Through a series of unfortunate events Atlanta still squeaked out a 114-111 victory, but this was at least a loss the Brooklyn Nets can use.

What seemed a foregone conclusion after three with Atlanta leading 94-82, it took a shocking lack of accuracy from Atlanta to only manage 20 points in the fourth quarter, allowing the game to come down to the final play. Unfortunately two of the Nets most glaring flaws went on glaring right into all of our eye orbs during those final moments. With a one point lead and around 30 seconds to play, Brook Lopez, who played another fantastic game, got stuck between jumping at Kyle Korver and running back to stop an Al Horford layup. In the end he chose neither and the Hawks took the lead on that Horford score.

No matter, there was still time to score, and Brooklyn has Iso-Joe… who surprisingly went with an isolation play. While often successful, the general lack of movement on iso tends to focus the defense and inhibit movement of other offensive players. This particular play actually ended well enough, with a Jarrett Jack corner three that didn’t go in, although that’s not surprising with Jack’s 25% shooting from behind the arc. The Nets also successfully fought for the rebound, which ended in a Bojan Bogdanovic three from the top of the key, which also sadly did not go in. After a few free throws and a desperation Johnson three (that almost went down), the game was history… like our first president (bookended that one!).

As mentioned, Brook Lopez had yet another blockbuster in an impressive string of recent hits. The Nets’ lovable center finished the game with 26 points on 8-17 shooting (and 10-10 from the line), 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 3 blocks. Other good Nets performances came from Joe Johnson, who managed 21 points on 9-15 shooting, Thad Young, who had 15 points and 11 boards, and Deron Williams, with 10 points and 13 assists (although only 40% shooting and 5 turnovers).


This loss coupled with Boston’s win against Detroit means that Brooklyn drops to 8th place in the East (although tied on win percentage with the Celtics). The Nets still have a one game lead on the Indiana Pacers, and own the tiebreaker in that matchup, but the Nets still have to play the Washington Wizards (Friday), the Milwaukee Bucks (Sunday), and the Chicago Bulls (Monday), all of whom are playoff teams still fighting for position. The good news is that Indiana plays against Oklahoma City, Washington, and Memphis after a trip to Detroit and Boston plays the Cavaliers twice, the Raptors, and the Bucks.

Of course there’s always Miami, who is tied with Indiana and play the Bulls and Raptors, but then end with Orlando and Philadelphia. I guess the point is that these games are really important if the Nets want to make the playoffs… and they do. If they can get in, we’ll just worry about Atlanta or Cleveland when we get there… deal?


Three Man Weave: Week 24 Edition

The Brooklyn Nets are in charge of their own playoff destiny, and nothing in the NBA seems to make sense anymore. Despite not winning more than three consecutive games all season long, the Nets strung together six straight in their 22nd and 23rd weeks of the season and surged to the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference standings. They’ll enter Monday’s makeup game against Portland with a half-game lead on the eighth-seeded Boston Celtics and a game-and-a-half over Indiana and Miami in the East’s ironic playoff race, but two-and-a-half behind the sixth-place Milwaukee Bucks with just six games left to play this season.

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Nets 106, Trail Blazers 96: The Nets Attack the Paint

The Brooklyn Nets were the beneficiary of some scheduling luck in last night’s 106-96 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers, but played smart basketball behind maybe their best second quarter of the season and led by double digits for all but a few minutes in the second half.

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