Nets-Wizards: 5 things to watch for

Deron Williams Brooklyn Nets

Since the Brooklyn Nets play their first televised game tonight, you’ll have the ability to keep an eye out for real live basketball things. Basketball! Here are the five I’m paying attention to:

1) The starters’ effectiveness. The Deron Williams-Joe Johnson-Gerald Wallace-Kris Humphries-Brook Lopez Quintet decimated the decimated Sixers starting five in their time on the floor Saturday. Per the pregame notes, check out Washington’s projected starters: Jannero Pargo, Bradley Beal, Martell Webster, Jan Vesely, Kevin Seraphin. If the Brooklyn Nets made mincemeat of a lineup starring Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner, they should absolutely destroy this five.

That said, it’s not about the score. If the Nets run as effectively as they can, they should be able to put together strings of successful possessions. I’d much rather their offense creating open attempts that miss than hitting contested shots. We know the Nets can make those shots. It’s more important that they create the open, high-percentage looks in the first place.

2) C.J. Watson & Andray Blatche’s synergy. The Nets bench allowed a stunning fourth-quarter comeback on Saturday night, but it wasn’t due to Watson and Blatche, who played well together offensively. The two combined for 31 of the team’s 41 bench points and scored in different ways: Watson off pick-and-rolls and in transition, Blatche in isolations and post-ups. Blatche showed a lot of moves down low that I didn’t expect, especially reverses going under the basket.

3) The tempo. Since two of the Nets’ most effective scorers in the starting lineup (Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez) are particularly good scorers in halfcourt offense, I expected the Nets to mostly keep the game in the halfcourt, creating shots while using all 24 seconds. Mark that as yet another prediction that, at least in game one, I got completely wrong. The Nets starters ran the Sixers off the floor in the first quarter, pushing the tempo to the tune of a blistering 26 possessions in 12 minutes and converting six turnovers into fast break opportunities. They ran and ran like hell — and it worked. Will it again?

4) Mirza Teletovic. Teletovic is a shooter, and every Nets player and coach that spoke about him after the game reiterated that fact. But it wasn’t just that his shots were missing; he looked put out of rhythm by his own misses, so much so that the Philadelphia crowd started cheering every time he caught the ball outside the arc. It got that bad. But Coach Avery told him “shoot 20 times.” They trust him. But though tonight is reflective, not indicative, another 2-13 night won’t help matters.

5) Defending the rim. One of this year’s big question marks for Brooklyn is how the team defends the paint. Even though the Nets allowed just 45.7% shooting at the rim (about 11% below the league average) and just 32% from within 8 feet on Saturday, Coach Avery was not pleased with how the Nets defended the rim, critiquing their lack of blocked shots. (They had seven.) Brook Lopez looked more active than usual, finishing with three blocked shots and eight defensive rebounds in 28 minutes. It’s worth looking out for how he defends post-ups and rotates in the paint tonight.