2) Will They Use The Russian Army Knife?
After starting center Brook Lopez went down with a season-ending injury in December, Jason Kidd went small ball a la the Miami Heat, and the move saved the Nets’ season. With the Nets struggling to keep up with the back-to-back defending champions in the first two games of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Kidd doubled down on this strategy in Game 2, with micro-ball lineups featuring Mirza Teletovic at center.
And who could blame the Kidd? In the first two games, Kevin Garnett looked like he was in Miami to pick out a retirement home, Blatche was too Blatche for his own Blatche-self, and Mason Plumlee, while a nice surprise in the regular season, did not look ready for prime-time.
Microball It has been terrible defensively, albeit in a super small sample size. While Teletovic shot the lights out on Thursday, he just doesn’t have the lateral quickness or rim protecting abilities to deal with the likes of Chris Bosh or Lebron James. In nine minutes with the starters (Williams/Livingston/Johnson/Pierce) + Teletovic, the Nets had a defensive rating of 154.5. Small sample size, yes, but not exactly an auspicious start.
Over at NetsDaily, Reed Wallach has suggested going to the next layer of the Nets “center” nesting doll and try Andrei Kirilenko at the five. Kirilenko’s poor shooting has probably cost him a rotation spot as the Nets seek to space the floor against the Heat. But Kirilenko’s length and defensive prowess means he can match up defensively with Bosh and his basketball IQ and ability to cut without the ball would make up for his shooting liabilities at the other end.
Even if the Nets don’t go to a super-small ball lineup, Kirilenko is due for a shot in this series. He has played only 12 minutes per game in the playoffs and didn’t play a minute in game two, the second time that has happened in this season’s nine playoff games. If you are going up against the most versatile supsestar in the league, why not try one of the most versatile role players, who also happens to have a history of getting under said superstar’s skin?
It’s time to unleash the Russian-Army Knife on the human app. -Will Rausch