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Can C.J. Watson and the Brooklyn Nets bring this series back to Brooklyn? (AP)

Four writers answer three burning questions on Game 6 between the Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls.
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Much of the Nets' breakdown in game two was caused by a spirited Bulls’ defense and an increase in minutes for maniacally-motored Joakim Noah. But the Nets played in a way almost perfectly suited to fail against the Bulls defense.

Let’s breakdown where the Nets went wrong.

An imaginary line, drawn down the center of the court from one rim is called the “help line” and it splits the court into two sides: the side with the ball and the side without. The Tom Thibodeau-led Bulls defense is predicated on flooding the ball side with their four help defenders in the paint, which takes away driving lanes. The defender guarding the ball tries to force the ball handler to dribble into a numbers-down situation, where two or more Bulls defenders can guard the person with the ball.

A key antidote to this smothering defensive style is something the Nets lacked in game two, ball movement. Stagnation with the ball on the perimeter allowed the Bulls to load up their defensive efforts and make the Nets offense become very predictable. This static offense came to a noticeable head in the Nets’ two for 19, 11 point third quarter.

Any time an offense can get the ball to cross over the help line either via pass or dribble, it causes all five defensive players to shift and thus, opens up driving lanes, causes missed rotations and other opportunities for offenses to attack.

Swinging the ball from side to side is important for any basketball offense, but even more so against these modern day NBA defenses that load up on the ballside, like the Chicago Bulls.

The Nets used a stationary offense in the game-deciding third quarter. Watch the clips below from six Nets possessions in the third quarter and pay particular attention to how many passes are made each possession and how many sides of the court the Nets hit (how many times the ball crosses the help line).

In each of these clips you’ll see a trend: not much passing, the ball sticking to one side of the court, late shot clock situations and finally a bad shot.

Here's four potential fixes:

  1. Put more shooters on the court. For those watching the TNT telecast you had to have heard Steve Kerr remarking how the Nets are playing “three on five” offensively when both Gerald Wallace and Reggie Evans are on the court, which is true to a certain extent. Neither of those players are threats to score from deep and thus allow the Bulls defenders guarding them to sag further into the paint, clogging things up for the Nets even more. Playing shooters like C.J. Watson, Jerry Stackhouse, Keith Bogans or perhaps even Mirza Teletovic more, may give the Nets more room to operate or make the Bulls pay for stacking their defense to one side.
  2. More play design. Compare the below play with the slogfest of plays that was shown above.

    Both of these plays came from the third quarter, but you can see the difference in both ball movement and man movement in these sets. You will also notice the improved shot quality the Nets got as a result.

  3. More transition. As I wrote a few weeks ago, the Nets are facing a set and ready Bulls defense far too often. Looking for more opportunities to run off misses and makes will help the Nets create easier opportunities.
  4. Make the most of these off days. With two days off since game two, the Nets have ample time to iron out any offensive issues. It’s now up to P.J. Carlesimo and the rest of the of the Nets’ coaching staff to highlight examples through film and emphasize ball movement in practice -- so that come game time the players will ping the ball around the court more.

 

The Nets blew out Boozer's Bulls. How can they build in Game 2? (AP)

The NBA playoffs are about adjustments, from game-to-game and from series-to-series. The teams best able to take away their opponent's strengths and exploit their weaknesses generally win a series.

They say the greatest lessons are learned after a loss, and if that’s true, the Chicago Bulls received an Ivy League-caliber education in the Game 1 dismantling courtesy of the Brooklyn Nets. There is no doubt that the Bulls' coaching staff has plenty of film to watch and strategy (strategies?) to adjust.

But, what about the Nets?... MORE →

 

The Brooklyn Nets will face the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs, starting Saturday night at 8 P.M. Today and tomorrow, we'll take a look at how the teams match up.

Deron Williams

Deron Williams leads the Brooklyn Nets into their first playoffs. (AP)

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Deron Williams POINT GUARD

Not only did he score 33 points and dish out 14 assists, he did so in scintillating fashion. His 20 point second quarter performance torched the Pacers and made final few plays the Nets needed to cling to victory.

Joe Johnson SHOOTING GUARD

His offense carried the Nets in the second half, especially during a stretch when the Nets were desperate for buckets.

Brook Lopez CENTER

Scored 14 of his 24 points in the first quarter which signified his great start but also his penchant for disappearing the rest of the game. Also had a few defensive lapses inside against the Pacers front line.

Reggie Evans POWER FORWARD

Reggie tosses headband. Reggie gets ejected.

Jerry Stackhouse SHOOTING GUARD

Looked a bit slow on the defensive end at times, but was almost able to return everything he gave on that end with his offense.

C.J. Watson POINT GUARD

Sparked the Nets with his active defense and outside shot.


 

If this was supposed to be considered a playoff type game, then I like the Nets chances heading into the start of post-season. Led by the Nets superstar trio of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez the Nets grinded out a win over the Pacers at Conseco Fieldhouse, sweeping the season series and locking up the fourth seed and home court in the playoffs in the process.

This game looked like it was headed towards being a laugher early in third quarter as the Nets opened up a 24-point lead. The Pacers roared back in the third quarter, however, and briefly took a lead in the 4th quarter before the Nets were able to vanquish them for good.

The big story tonight was the continued brilliance of Williams who finished with 33 points and 14 assists and was in attack mode all night, especially in the second quarter when he erupted for 20 points. Williams’ outside shot was falling as he hit five three-pointers, but more important was Williams’ attack of the paint, which was relentless and at times unstoppable for any Pacer perimeter defender.

The tide turned a bit in the second half when the Pacers put Paul George and his length on Williams, but that only opened the door for Joe Johnson to put his thumbprint on the game.

Instead of erupting for points like Williams did, Johnson’s 24 points came as a slow, steady burn. He abused smaller matchups and floated on the perimeter for timely three-point shots. Johnson’s scoring was especially crucial down the stretch when the Nets were desperate for offense and the Pacers were surging.

The last component of the Nets big three is Brook Lopez and although he was quiet for most of the second half, Lopez set the tone early, easily driving around Pacer big man Roy Hibbert and hitting a myriad of mid-range jumpers to score 14 first quarter points. In the Nets final few possessions, Lopez was used as a ball screener for Williams and his rolling, swooping left-handed layup that came at the 2:23 mark just about clinched the game for the Nets.

It was a chippy, physical game. Deron Williams left hobbling with a knee bruise, Reggie Evans was ejected and Keith Bogans and Lance Stephenson were involved in a scrap that led to a double technical, but if this was a sign of what the playoffs will be like, the Nets responded to the test.

When they’re 24 point lead evaporated in the fourth quarter and the Indiana crowd was rocking, the Nets did not wilt. Instead, they took every Pacer punch, absorbed them, and fought back to reclaim the lead. As the playoffs near, teams will turn to their superstars to lead and tonight the Nets’ big three shone.

Reggie Evans gets ejected.

Posted on: April 12th, 2013 by Justin DeFeo Comments

 

 

Brook, feasting.

 

Tonight's Nets vs. Pacers game is pivotal for Eastern Conference playoff positioning. With a magic number of two, the Nets are looking to lock up the fourth seed while also simultaneously chase down the Pacers in a last grasp chance at the three seed. A heads up win tonight will help both of those causes. Here to help us preview the matchup is Jared Wade of the ESPN Truehoop Network Pacers blog, 8 points, 9 Seconds.

Justin DeFeo: What needs to happen for the Pacers in the post season for this year to be dubbed a success?

Jared Wade: Reaching the Eastern Conference Finals. They played the Heat tough in round two last season and showed something the year before in round one against the Bulls (though they lost in five games). This followed a near-decade of nonsense and mediocrity after the brawl in Detroit.

So as long as they make that one additional step in the 2013 playoffs, it will be an excellent year. Or, as much as Pacers' fans would hate to admit it, even losing a really good series in the second round that goes seven games and stays close would be satisfying. With no Danny Granger, just getting closer towards being relevant in June again is what the franchise needs. Speaking of the playoffs, who would the Nets most like to see in the first round?

DeFeo: Great question, can I choose none of the above? I think of the teams in range for the Nets to play in the first round, the Celtics, Hawks and Bulls all present different problems to the Nets and would all be tough outs. Of those three, the Nets would probably like to see the Bulls and Celtics least, so by process of elimination that leaves the Hawks as the most favorable first round matchup. But I think we can all agree that every team in the East is trying to avoid the Heat in any round like the plague. Early this season the Pacers were being picked as a team that could beat Miami in a series. Do you think thats still possible if they meet?

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There is a few remaining regular season games for the Nets and they each have added importance as the Nets look to lock up home-court for the first round of the playoffs. Tonight's opponent is the Indiana Pacers and like always, it's time to play "The BK Game Streak," where you can build a streak predicting how well the Nets will do in each game for a chance to win a $200 Amazon Gift Card!

The game is as simple as it sounds:
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To run or not to run, that is the question.

The Nets pace (or lack there of) has been a topic of discussion amongst those following the franchise all season. The Nets play the second slowest pace in the NBA, as they are just a shade quicker than the New Orleans Hornets. There are advantages and disadvantages to playing at such a slow pace and we're taking a deep dive into both styles. After presenting the arguments for each speed, we're asking you the reader to decide which way is best for this Nets team. Let's get to it.

Reasons NOT to run.

 

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

As stated earlier The Nets are almost the slowest playing team in the NBA, edging the Hornets for the right to be the league’s sloth. Despite this slow pace though, the Nets score 104.4 points per 100 possessions, an efficiency rating that puts them ahead of all but eight other teams. They are outscoring opponents by 1.1 points per game and their 42 wins (so far) have them in contention for a division title and an outside chance at the East’s number two overall seed. Point is, the Nets’ pace works for them and they project to finish right in the range that most basketball savvy pundits predicted they would, or should.

Knowing that the status quo isn’t always a great thing to stick to, would an innovative coach change things up and attack more in transition? Perhaps. But the fact is, two different head coaches have taken a look at this roster, weighed its strengths and weaknesses and both have decided to play at a super-slow speed. That should tell you something. As the old saying goes, if your basketball system ain’t broke, don’t fix it. ... MORE →