Can the Nets knock off the Hawks? Game 1 kicks off at 5:30 P.M. EDT Sunday. Full schedule here.
1) The Brooklyn Nets regular season was…
Ryan Carbain: Illogical. A minus-232 point differential for the season, outscored by 3.1 points per possession, and yet this team had stretches of pretty brilliant basketball and made the playoffs. The peaks and valleys with this team were frustrating but the last month was fun to watch.
Nadeau: Is there a word for excited-for-the-late-turnaround-but-still-really-disappointed? Their sudden surge was incredible, and they deserve praise for that. But in the two biggest games of the year chasing the sixth seed, they lose by 20-plus both times? The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Anthony Pignatti: Frustrating. My confidence in what this Nets team has wavered. Every time this team felt close to finding an identity and some cohesion, they’d lay an egg or two or three. It was astonishing. I think I’ve developed some “thick skin” like Deron Williams from my experience with this year’s team, and I’m a more prepared Nets fan moving forward.
2) By the end of Nets-Hawks, we will know…
Carbain: If Lionel Hollins is willing to get really weird. To beat the Hawks, you’ll need to trust Markel Brown, give Joe Johnson time at power forward, and extend the fleet-footed Plumlee’s playing time. He’s done it during the season, and will need to do if again to close out on Atlanta’s superior shooters.
Nadeau: Whether or not the Nets like being called losers. Pierce went in on Brooklyn, and Williams responded with a 4-for-12 game from the field and five turnovers. Johnson laughed it off and agreed. Want to get the media and Pierce off your back? Compete and leave it all on the court. Clichés aside, if Brooklyn can win a few or stay close in all four, it’ll go a long ways towards diffusing the culture towards the franchise.
Pignatti: That the Nets never did belong in the playoffs. The team won 38 regular season games and they’re in, the Oklahoma City Thunder won 45 and they’re out. It just doesn’t feel right that a team as inconsistent as the Nets have earned the right to play post-season basketball, while MVP candidate Russell Westbrook and company sit home. Serious consideration should be given to end conferences, and simply seed teams according to their regular season record.
3) Odds the Nets pull off a miracle upset?
Carbain: 20-1. This type of team has been the Nets’ kryptonite since they moved to Brooklyn. I’d honestly prefer LeBron James and the Cavaliers.
Nadeau: 30-1. Realistically, the Nets have little chance. They can win if those aforementioned veterans have finally had enough (probably not), Bojan Bogdanovic stays in “Flames Mode” for the next two weeks, and this may sound crazy, but Mason Plumlee returns to form. Brooklyn desperately needs a guy off the bench to shoulder the load. After so much promise in his rookie year, where did it all go? Something tells me Plumlee has saved it all for this!
Pignatti: 7-1. The only Hawks games I saw this season were against the Nets. If you think there’s a strong chance they could be knocked off against this Nets team, you haven’t watched any Hawks games this season — or Nets games, for that matter. The Hawks are the real deal: they space the floor well, shoot a high percentage from the floor, and their ball movement is beautiful to watch. 67.6 percent of their shots are assisted on! The Nets will need solid contributions across the board to have a chance. I’m simply not confident they can do it four times in this series.