The Brooklyn Nets entered their first round series with the Atlanta Hawks as heavy underdogs, especially as the Hawks swept the season series 4-0. The Nets have battled however, and showed Atlanta they won’t go down without a fight. Unfortunately, there are no moral victories in the playoffs, and despite no double-digit losses, the Nets are on the verge of losing a chance to even get into the series.
The Nets had chances in the fourth quarter of both Game 1 and Game 2, coming within a single possession of beating the Hawks on multiple occasions. In the final quarter of game two, Brooklyn hit some huge shots to put them on the cusp of winning, and the series balance would’ve shifted in the Nets’ favor moving forward in the series.
Instead, the Nets face an 0-2 deficit and now cannot afford to lose a single game at home. The NBA playoff format isn’t unfair, but it certainly is unforgiving. When the lower seeded team fails to steal a home game early in the series, it’s all but over barring a miracle stretch of wins or strong defense of home court.
And the Nets can’t be fully expected to defend their home court, as they have identical 19-22 records both on the road and in the Barclays Center. So rather than relying on a stronger showing at home, the Nets will instead have to bank on the Hawks underperforming on the road.
If the Nets lose Game 3, the series is over. No NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in the playoffs and the Nets certainly don’t have the power to beat the Hawks in four consecutive games.
The blueprint for the Nets to pull off a now even more improbable series win is to win all three games in Brooklyn, as well as one game in Atlanta, whether it be Game 5 or Game 7. Winning Game 5 would mean the Nets would win four games in a row in this scenario, which is pretty unlikely. But winning all three home games, and showing up with more heart and drive in a deciding Game 7 isn’t impossible for the Nets.
Winning has to start with the team’s stars, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. Each player has underpeformed horribly through two games and in single-digit losses, every missed shot counts. Through two games, the Nets highest-piad players have totaled:
- Joe Johnson: 12-33 FG (36%), 3-14 3PT (21%), -22 when on the court
- Deron Williams: 6-18 FG (33%), 2-6 3PT (33%), -18 when on the court
These numbers are simply unacceptable from the team leaders and former All-Stars. Again, just a couple less shots jacked up by the duo and the Nets could be looking at least a 1-1 series tie.
Some players that have produced include Jarrett Jack and Alan Anderson. Jack led the charge in Game 2, totaling 23 points on a solid 9 for 13 shooting. With 36 points in all through two games, Jack has been the Nets most consistent option thus far and may need to steal some minutes from Williams if he continues to struggle. Anderson hasn’t been as flashy as Jack, but his 13 point in expanded minutes in game two prove he’s a valuable asset when on the court.
Defensively, the Nets need to do all they can do to stop the Hawks entire starting lineup during the rest of the series. Through two games, the Hawks have only had one starter play less than thirty minutes in a game. Aside from point guard Dennis Schroder, the Hawks bench hasn’t been particularly strong so far this series. If the Nets can slow the Hawks starting five, they have a good chance to get back in this series.
It all starts with guarding Kyle Korver. Scratch that, it seems there may be no guarding Kyle Korver.
Whether the shooting guard has had hands in his face, defense barring down on him, or even being forced into an awkward fadeaway, Korver has showcased his knack for three point shooting in this series. No defense the Nets have employed has seemed to slow him. So rather than strictly defending Korver’s shot, the Nets need to deny him the ball, as he’s a deadly catch-and-shooter.
The Nets actually did a pretty good of defending in Game 2, holding the Hawks to a 38.9% shooting percentage, as opposed to the Nets 45.6% mark.
This should’ve translated to a win, as the Nets also outrebounded the Hawks 47-39, but the Nets were doomed by 16 turnovers, including a costly four by the otherwise solid play of Jack.
The Nets blew a huge chance in game two, outshooting and outrebounding the Hawks only to lose 96-91 in the end. If the Nets can at least keep their current offensive production and cut down on turnovers, they should at least be able to pull out a Game 3 win to extend the series.
That’s all the Nets can think about right now, winning just game three. One game at a time.