Nets Raptors Basketball

The Nets and Raptors start their playoff series Saturday in Toronto. (AP)

 

What had happened was: The Nets cast aside their usual uniforms and instead collectively donned a massive white flag in the final game of the regular season, which they lost 114-85 to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The game mercifully brought to an end a streak of uninspired, boring basketball the Nets largely played over the final two weeks.

The Nets made rest their first priority, as Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Shaun Livingston, Kevin Garnett, Alan Anderson, and Mirza Teletovic sat this one out. Instead, the Nets fielded a vaunted five of Jorge Gutierrez, Marquis Teague, Marcus Thornton, Andray Blatche, and Jason Collins. Andrei Kirilenko and Mason Plumlee made appearances of the bench, which was weird, because I wasn’t used to seeing NBA players on the court when they got in the game.

That was: A chore. No one wanted to watch the Nets’ collection of also-rans come out and skirmish with a non-playoff game when the team clearly didn’t give a damn, and this was in many senses not even an NBA game.

Where they stand: After a few days of jockeying, the dust has settled. The Nets will take the No. 6 seed and play the Toronto Raptors, who beat the New York Knicks Wednesday to cement their spot in the No. 3 seed, in the first round of the playoffs. Game 1 will take place at the Air Canada Centre Saturday on ESPN. Time TBD. With the loss, the Nets locked a spot in Miami’s half of the Eastern Conference bracket, which means Brooklyn will play No. 2 Miami in the second round if the Nets advance and Miami takes care of business against No. 7 Charlotte.

This came amid much dismay that the Nets would have to play the Chicago Bulls in the first round once again. The No. 4 Bulls will instead play the No. 5 Washington Wizards.

The stats: Well, they weren’t great. Marcus Thornton led the Nets with 20 points on 6-of-19 shooting — and shoot he did. The cuffs were off for Thornton, who is not shy about shooting in the first place. This was an exhibition in gunning.

Andray Blatche posted 20 points (8-of-18 shooting) and 12 rebounds and featured his usual collection of moves and hilarity. Andrei Kirilenko MADE A PAIR OF FREE THROWS and I don’t care about anything else he did.

Jason Collins was set free to fire, logging eight points on eight shots. The lumbering big man played 39 minutes, and you have to figure he’ll never play that many in an NBA game again.

Shot Chart Rorschach Test: A Christmas-themed square donut.
donut

Is Marquis Teague in the D-League yet? That’s a nope.

Game Grades: Read 'em here.

Was this wise? Maybe. Williams needed the rest. If Johnson needed it, he never would have told you so. Pierce has his shoulder thingy, and Garnett sweats a new ocean after each two-minute stint. There were reasons not to care, but there were also reasons to try and avoid Miami in the second round and stay in rhythm.

Also, I take a little more seriously Jason Kidd’s assertion that Garnett’s minutes load won’t increase in the playoffs given that he had absolutely no chance to increase it incrementally during the regular season. The Nets can probably only count on him for 22 minutes a game in the postseason.

WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE?

Shaun Livingston, not doin’ things: He didn’t play. That toe is really actin’ up.

Can you give me a comparison for the number of fast-break dunks the Nets gave up in the second half? Sure thing!

Across the river: The Knicks lost to the Toronto Raptors, putting to bed their miserable season and giving them 37 wins, matching the SCHOENE projection that Knicks fans were quick to call absurd before the season began.

Take that, Masai Ujiri.

Next up: The Nets start what they’ve been building toward since Jan. 1. Saturday they get to show that they really were built for the playoffs.

 

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Joe Johnson, Jimmy Butler

The Nets showed the most life after the whistle, and it cost them in the loss. (AP)

Hello, Gary. Thank you for your continued support of The Brooklyn Game. As we head into the All-Star break, take a look at some funky hoodies at The Brooklyn Game Store. Your support keeps us going. Thank you, you lovely unicorn.

Here's a roundup of last night's Nets festivities.
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Kevin Garnett, Joakim Noah

Kevin Garnett and Joakim Noah have a history. (AP)

In 11 chances to play on the second half of a Brooklyn Nets back-to-back this season, Kevin Garnett has sat out in four of them. It's part of coach Jason Kidd's plan to rest Garnett during the season, to keep him fresh for the playoffs.

But he'll play tonight against the Chicago Bulls, as expected:
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Marquis Teague,DJ Augustin

Marquis Teague. (AP)

The Brooklyn Nets have traded second-year forward Tornike Shengelia for Chicago Bulls guard Marquis Teague, the team officially announced today. He will not be with the team for their game against the Orlando Magic due to travel issues.

Teague will wear #12 for Brooklyn.

The trade was first reported over the weekend, but couldn't be completed until league offices re-opened today following the weekend.

Shengelia tweeted out a goodbye to Brooklyn's fans:

Teague gives the Nets an emergency third point guard following the team's trade of Tyshawn Taylor to open up a roster spot.

In 19 games this season, Teague has averaged 2.4 points, 1.5 assists and one rebound in 12.7 minutes per game.

 

Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah

Chicago's bench was all smiles as the Bulls romped on Christmas. (AP)

BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- A fidgeting Deron Williams had no answers after his team's latest loss.
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At practice Monday afternoon, the Nets learned about Derrick Rose's season-ending surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, sending their well-wishes to the Chicago Bulls point guard and former MVP. This is the second straight season that Rose will miss with a knee injury after tearing the ACL in his other knee in the 2012 NBA playoffs, forcing him to sit out the entire 2012-13 season. He played in just ten games this season before going down with the injury.

Deron Williams & Joe Johnson both spoke about the seriousness of Rose's injury. Video after the jump.
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Today and tomorrow, we're going to look at six things we've seen from the Brooklyn Nets in the first six games. Here's part one.

Kevin Garnett has been more of a wart than a stalwart on defense this season. (AP)

Kevin Garnett has been more of a wart than a stalwart on defense this season. (AP)


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Brook Lopez, as always, is the first Brooklyn Nets player to address the media. Unlike always, roughly 30-40 media members, complete with television cameras, microphones, cell phone recorders blanket him, in a seemingly endless swarm to hear his thoughts on the game, on Brooklyn's first season, and what could have gone differently. Unlike always, Lopez hasn't had any time to get changed, so all cameras focus on his chest and upwards: below the shirt, Lopez is wearing only a towel.

Lopez sighs before taking the first question. Despite the sea of media, Lopez is as consistent off the court as he is on it. He's been a good soldier all season; he provides media members with the quotes they need and proper angles about playing hard, trusting teammates, providing "the boost," and taking blame even when the blame isn't necessary. He deflects praise. He says he should have done more when his teammates and coach did more than enough. He stares down at his feet, and straight ahead above the crowd of audio gobblers, but rarely directly at someone. He kindly and respectfully answers the same questions, with slightly different wording, from multiple media members. He is Brooklyn's goofy public relations official, and in proper PR fashion, you'll never get him to criticize anyone but himself.

Soon after Lopez finishes talking, the media amoeba huddles around Jerry Stackhouse, primarily because one camera swung in that direction. The hivemind goes where it smells a story, and Stackhouse can provide one; He is Brooklyn's veteran leadership, 38 years old and a principle member of the National Basketball Player's Association, Stackhouse may have something to say that other guys haven't learned yet.
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Joakim Noah

Joakim Noah. (AP)

"I’m proud of this team and we’re going to go into a hostile environment in Brooklyn, and we’re going to win” - Joakim Noah following the Bulls loss in game six. Noah, who had one of the most inspiring games of his career, did just what he said the Bulls would do: win.

For tonight's recap, we're going to break it up into two parts; the first half and the second half, because that's exactly what tonight was for the Brooklyn Nets -- a two-part game.
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Warm-Ups

The Game Starts Now... MORE →

 

Deron Williams, Jimmy Butler

Game 7. (AP)

No one said it better than John Schuhmann: tonight's Game 7 is a "referendum" on all things Brooklyn and all things Nets. In their first playoff series in the borough, the Nets have a chance to win a Game 7 at home for the first time in Brooklyn history -- and that includes the Dodgers.

In honor of Game 7, here's seven things I'm keeping a close eye on heading into tonight.

The franchise

Deron Williams signed with the Brooklyn Nets in July knowing that this was coming: perhaps not a Game 6, but an opportunity to lead the Brooklyn Nets past the first round of the playoffs in their inaugural season in Brooklyn and for the first time since the 2006-07 season. Williams has had a sometimes-scintillating, sometimes-quiet first round: Williams has had two excellent games (1 and 4), three solid games (3, 5, 6), and one awful shooting night (1-9 in Game 2) in this series. He's had a game-defining dunk and disappeared for the better part of an entire half. Williams's performance in Game 7 could be a career-defining moment.

The two-man tandem

Andray Blatche

Andray Blatche. (AP)

Andray Blatche and Brook Lopez played 13 minutes together in Game 6 after playing 16 minutes together in three games all series. It was their worst tandem performance of the series -- the team only shot 5-17 with the two on the floor -- but they still outscored the Bulls 24-21. In 49 minutes this series (or basically one full game), the Nets have outscored Chicago 115-74 when Blatche-Lopez share the floor, and have been outscored 509-488 when they don't. The Bulls will play shorthanded again tonight, and Joakim Noah has played 176 playoff minutes on one plantar-fasciitis-plagued foot. P.J. Carlesimo may not alter his starting lineup -- and in a game like this, I don't blame him -- but if there is any time for these two to get as many minutes as possible to pound a weakened Chicago frontline into submission, it's tonight.

The big man

Key to that two-man tandem is Brook Lopez, the team's steadiest contributor all season. He hasn't skipped a beat in the playoffs, scoring 20 points in each of his first five playoff games before a 17-point performance in Game 6. Offensively, Lopez hasn't done anything special or different in these six playoff games: he's finding open space in the paint, backing down Noah in the post (though Nets interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo called curiously fewer post-ups for Lopez in Game 6), and supplementing easy points near the rim and put-backs with his 18-foot jumper. Lopez's defense has been surprising this series: while he's still struggled to defend pick-and-rolls, Lopez has keyed in more defending the paint, and the numbers reflect it: the Bulls shoot 48.2% in the paint with Lopez in the game, compared to 58.7% with him on the bench, and Lopez has had multiple blocks in five of six playoff games (including a seven-block explosion in Game 3).

One indictment of Lopez's defense: through six games, Joakim Noah leads the playoffs with 24 offensive rebounds on one foot. He's taken advantage of weak team defense to slip to the rim for easy points. He's without a doubt been limited -- he's shooting just 38% from the field in the playoffs -- but Noah's been a key cog in non-scoring offense for Chicago.

The Nets need Lopez to do what he's always done, plus just a bit more, to ensure sealing the deal tonight.

Continued...