Following the offseason acquisitions of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, the Brooklyn Nets were expected to be contenders for the NBA title this year. However, the Nets stumbled out of the gates thanks to a combination of lack of chemistry and injuries. Despite their rough start, the second half of the season has produced an entirely different Nets team and they are now back on track and in the middle of the playoff hunt in the East.
Rookie head coach Jason Kidd struggled in his first few months at the helm of the Nets, as the team started the NBA season with a record of 10-21. After demoting assistant head coach Lawrence Frank from the sidelines and receiving a fine and suspension from the NBA, many expected Kidd to be relieved of his coaching duties.
However, Kidd refocused his team and guided the Nets to a 10-3 record in January, en route to winning his first career head coach of the month award. Since their 10-21 start the season, the Nets have gone 29-12 and climbed to fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
The Nets have now won 7 of their last 10 games, and recently tied a franchise record with 13 straight wins at home. The reason for the Nets turn around this season has been a balanced scoring attack. The Nets do not have a player in the top 50 in scoring in the league. Their leading scorer is Joe Johnson who averages 15.5 points per game, while Deron Williams averages 14.6 and Paul Pierce adds 13.7 per game.
Brook Lopez has been injured since December and Andray Blatche has been huge in taking his place, as he is averaging 11.3 points on the season on 47 percent shooting. Along with Brook Lopez, Kevin Garnett has missed time due to back issues and has not played since Feb. 27.
Despite these injures to key players, Brooklyn has turned their season around and continues to climb up the Eastern Conference standings.
Player to Watch in the Playoffs
The truth is, Paul Pierce will be a key factor to the Net’s playoff run this season. With the return of Kevin Garnett unknown, Pierce will provide the Nets with some much needed playoff experience. The former finals MVP has found his groove as of late and seems to be winding back the clock in preparation for another playoff run.
In their last two victories, Pierce has played perfectly in the first quarter. Against Cleveland on Friday Pierce put up 17 points in the first, and followed that up by scoring 16 against Minnesota on Sunday. Pierce did not miss a shot in either opening frames.
Deron Williams and Joe Johnson have been playing well for the Nets as of late, but if they are to make a run in the playoffs this year they will need The Truth to be at his best.
How Will Their Season End
As of today the Nets are looking at a rematch from last season with the Chicago Bulls in the first round. If this match up sticks, expect the Nets to be involved in a grueling seven game series, much like the season before. Despite their improved play late in the season, Brooklyn’s offense will have a difficult time executing against the stifling Chicago defense.
Jason Kidd will also be entering his first playoff run as head coach, while Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau has had several years of experience, including a run to the Eastern Conference finals.
With both the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat struggling late in the NBA’s regular season, perhaps the Eastern Conference finals are not as locked in as people may have thought. There may in fact be a chance for teams outside the top two seeds in the East to make a deep run through the playoffs this year.
NBA Daily is a daily series providing commentary, predictions, and analysis of events surrounding the NBA.
Commentary By Eric Kummel