Game 4 of the first-round playoff series between the Nets and the Raptors kicks off tonight, and YES Network’s Brooklyn Nets sideline reporter Sarah Kustok answered a few questions for YES Network about the game.
Who has the edge heading into Game 4? I believe the Nets have the edge going into Sunday’s game; they have a real opportunity with the chance to be up 3-1 in the series and doing it on their home court. Despite the fact that they had difficulty closing out those final five minutes of Friday’s game, I think Brooklyn has the momentum. Given their leadership, the veterans, the Nets have so many key components clicking. The Nets feel good, and their bench still has not yet contributed in a way that we had seen this season. They know there is still room for improvement. I have, though, been impressed with the resiliency of the Raptors, who were down 15 Friday but they didn’t go away. DeRozan, in particular, has shown that he’s come to play after overcoming those first-game jitters.
On Jason Kidd: I continue to be very impressed with the way he’s handled the transition from player to coach. He has such poise, a calmness, just a very systematic approach to how he understands the game of basketball. We’ve seen that since the day he was hired. He’s gotten the players to trust him and to trust each other. I haven’t seen a coach develop this type of closeness in a long time. And even with the challenging start of the season, the team never fragmented. I believe that has a lot to do with Kidd. He’s grown exponentially. The expectation to win… that starts at the top. That’s how he was as a player, and that’s how he is as a coach.
That togetherness is what he’s created. Guys, especially the veterans, have bought into it. They (the team) use the word trust all the time, and you can see that. It’s a tight-knit group. It’s their relationship with Kidd.
The stretched-out post-season schedule?: The extended time in between games really helps an older team such as the Nets. Absolutely. That can be such an underrated factor in a series such as this. Players in this group can use that rest, that break. It gives you a day to rest, and a day to tend to some of the tweaks and kinks. It may not seem as valuable to a younger team such as Toronto, but it gives your body time to rest, especially with the travel back and forth.
Inability of Nets to put away opponents? I don’t think it’s an issue; not at all. They have shown throughout the latter part of the season, especially at home, that they can put teams away. That has been one of their strengths since the New Year, to play strong in the fourth quarter. I don’t think that’s (the Nets’ inability to put away teams) an issue at all. More of the case is simply that it’s the playoffs and a team like Toronto just isn’t going to give up or stop fighting.
On Joe Johnson & Deron Williams clicking: Joe Johnson and D-Will have built such chemistry on the floor. It’s taken some time, but this is what they were expected to bring to Brooklyn. They both had 20 or more points in the same game twice so far in this series, while they did that only two times during the regular season. It’s fun to see how they have developed the chemistry on the floor that’s been expected of them.
Toronto heading into Game 4: I’ve been impressed with their resiliency, and their ability to make timely, big shots. They’ve showed a lot of confidence. DeRozan and Lowry have played well. Guys like Vasquez and Patterson have come off the bench and contributed. Valanciunas has given the Nets problems. They’ve done a great job on the glass against the Nets, but Brooklyn still has continued to force turnovers, a big strength. And defensively for the Raptors, they have had issues trying to keep the Nets out of the paint. D-Will and Johnson have done great jobs getting into the middle of the Toronto defense, creating for themselves and teammates.