Check out our top 10 moments from the 2012-13 season for the Brooklyn Nets.
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.
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 tandemAndray 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.
Nate Robinson, who's been a thorn in Brooklyn's side all series, jumps into Deron Williams as Williams shoots a 3, committing a foul as Williams hits the floor and buries the jumper. Williams made the free throw to complete the four-point play.
Williams finished the first half with 14 points and eight assists without turning the ball over.
Kudos to Andray Blatche for getting the rebound, outletting the ball to Deron Williams, then running the floor so Williams could find him for the sweet layup. Beautiful creation by D-Will.
Brooklyn Nets guard Deron Williams threw down a one-handed slam with three Bulls around him (though none directly in his line of sight to the basket) for his fourth dunk of the season, his second in the playoffs, and his first in traffic. The dunk tied the game at 66.
The NBA Most Improved Player Award is given by a panel of national sportswriters to (duh) the most improved player in the current regular season, as compared to previous regular season outputs from said player. Today the NBA announced that Paul George of the Indiana Pacers won the 2012-13 MIP Award.
But what if there was a Most Improved Player In Season Award, or MIPIS?... MORE →
Are you one of the countless folks who are curious about the idea of the Brooklyn Nets but didn't quite get around to following the team much this year? No problem! Here's your guide to the 10 things newbie fans need to know to enjoy the playoffs (which the Nets are in, by the way).
1) Don't know what to make of this team? Don't worry, no one else does either. Along with my own objective eye, I've talked to coaches, analysts, and writers all over, and one common theme plays throughout: no one knows just what to make of this Brooklyn team. When they're good, they're really good. When they're bad, they're really bad. They beat up on bad teams… except when they get embarrassed. They get smoked by great teams… except when they sweep the season series from Indiana and blow out the Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City. Their offense is stagnant… until it starts moving. Their defense is bad… until it makes key stops against the Los Angeles Clippers, the 4th-best offense in the league.
2) One franchise record and one related NBA record was set this season: Deron Williams finished the season with 168 three-pointers, the most in franchise history. He also set an NBA record for most three-pointers in a half, with nine:
3) Kris Humphries began the season as a starter, now barely plays. The Nets signed Humphries, more famous these days for his infamous 72-day marriage to Kim Kardashian than his basketball career, to a two-year deal worth $24 million in this past offseason, only to see him lose his starting spot after just 17 games to Reggie Evans. Humphries, who has season averages of 5.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game on a paltry 44.8% shooting percentage, has fluctuated in and out of the rotation all season, most notably sitting for three weeks without an injury as P.J. Carlesimo tried anyone else as a backup power forward.
As for his love life? After skipping a divorce hearing in Los Angeles on April 12th (the Nets played the Indiana Pacers that day in Indiana), Humphries agreed to a settlement with Kardashian just before the playoffs.
Season Numbers: 18.9 PPG, 7.7 APG, 3.0 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 44.0 FG%, 37.8 3P%, 85.9 FT%, 20.3 PER, 10.9 WS
As Max noted earlier in his case for Brook Lopez as team MVP, the definition of just what an MVP award is is a discussion rampant with side-stepping opinions. People often talk past each other, relying on their own rigid definition of the meaning of the word "value." Do you value peak? Consistency? Longevity? Memorability? All of them? How do you weigh them?
I, personally, have always valued a sustained peak. I'd take Pedro Martinez's seven-year stretch from 1997-2003 over almost any stretch any pitcher has ever pitched, and I think his 58 starts from 1999-2000 rank as the best a pitcher has ever been. If a player's great, I value that player's greatness over perhaps a longer "good, but less memorable" streak.
I've extolled Brook Lopez's virtues non-stop on this site; I've argued that he deserves a first-team All-NBA ranking at center, that he's been enormously undervalued and put together the best season of his career. But as far as a sustained peak goes, nobody topped Deron Williams.... MORE →