December 6, 2012 at 4:43 pm #50041
Before the season, Mikhail Prokhorov put a lot on Avery Johnson’s shoulders when he said he expects this team to make the Eastern Conference Finals. At first I thought, “Wow, Avery’s got a lot of work to do,” but now, after I’ve seen this team play 17 games, I’m not only starting to believe Mikhail’s expectations, but I’m starting to believe that this team can go even further; to the finals.
At first it sounds crazy because, well, there’s another team in the East named the defending champion, Miami Heat. But after watching these last two contests against the best two teams in the league, I started to realize that the thought did not sound as crazy as one might expect. The two games were close games and at one point or another, the Nets had a chance to win each game. They had a nine-point lead at halftime against the Heat and were down two with a chance to tie in the very late stages of the OKC game. The reason why these two games give me such hope of a finals run is because of both the circumstances they were played under as well as the fight mentality that the Nets showed against these two elite teams. In terms of the circumstances of both games, one thing stands out; the Nets were missing Brook Lopez. Every Nets fan knows how vital Brook is to their success and even with Andray Blatche playing extremely well in Brook’s absence, it still leaves the Nets on a short big man rotation. What it does, is it forces Kris Humphries to play center when Blatche is out of the game, and against OKC, when Blatche was in foul trouble, this really hurt them. Another thing is the amount of rest the Nets had compared to the amount of rest the Heat had. The Nets were coming off of a back to back and had the their 5th game in 7 nights. The Heat on the other hand (already at an advantage with health and talent), were only playing they’re 2nd game in 7 nights and of course, this difference in rest reared its ugly head in that dreadful second half for Brooklyn. The final circumstance that hurt the Nets was shooting from their two big guns in the backcourt, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. The common consensus is that these two will eventually get back to the shooting form they’ve maintained throughout their careers and even with their extended struggles, people would think that their strokes will come back if not in the next 10-20 games, then certainly come playoff time.
Even with all these disadvantages, the Nets were still able to secure a nine-point lead at halftime against the Heat until they completely ran out of gas in the second half. The OKC game was similar in the fact that Joe Johnson struggled through about 3.5 quarters and that the Nets didn’t have Brook Lopez, and this time, Reggie Evans. Of course there’s no excuse for the defensive effort in the first half where they allowed OKC to shoot 66%, but most Nets fans would know that after a 13 point halftime deficit, the Nets of New Jersey would’ve most likely gone on to lose by 25 or even 30. Not these Nets though. They kept battling and made some halftime adjustments, and were able to come within a couple of breaks here and there down the stretch, of beating the Western Conference champs.
These two contests (along with Miami’s major hiccup against Washington), made me start to imagine what type of potential this team has for late in the season. It made me think about a healthy Nets team, with a backcourt that’s hitting their shots, against a team with the same amount of rest that they have. Maybe it’s too early to start thinking about further down the road, but for me, the Nets certainly showed why there remains a glimmer of hope of not just an ECF appearance, as Mikhail stated, but maybe even further into the promised land of NBA glory.December 6, 2012 at 10:18 pm #50047
I think it’s an interesting thought for sure– but I think it’s entirely too early to even think we’re going to get out of the 2nd round. It’s early December and I have high expectations going forward, but I hate to count chickens before they hatch especially with Lopez still on the shelf.December 6, 2012 at 11:04 pm #50056
I’d like to think we have a very good chance of making the ECF. It’s still entirely too early to tell whether this can be a championship team. It obviously all comes down to Miami. I think a big indicator will be how the Nets play Miami at the Barclay’s Center. The Nets might be able to establish a home court advantage so strong that they could win all 3 at home in a seven game series. If they can get past Miami, they can compete with any team in the West. We’ve only seen a small sample of Miami. We weren’t at full health for either of the games. If both teams are at full health when they come to the Barclay’s Center we’ll have a good idea of what we could expect to see in a 7 game series.December 6, 2012 at 11:16 pm #50059
I’ll be happily surprised if Nets make the ECFDecember 7, 2012 at 12:35 pm #50081
To be perfectly honest, we’re just going to end up hurt that our first season in Brooklyn didn’t meet our outlandish expectations. I’m just excited to watch the Nets play a play-off series. When the day comes that the Nets actually win, I will ball like a small child, but for this first year, I’d be happy enough just watching them play post-season.December 7, 2012 at 4:41 pm #50088
I wouldn’t say I’m expecting finals (who is?), but I don’t think it’s out of the question. We play a playoff style and we still have some room to make moves to put us on that next level.
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