Don’t look now, but the Brooklyn Nets are back to .500 and back from the dead. What was once a 10-21 team back in 2013 has now gone 19-8 in the new year, bringing them up to the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference, just 3.5 games back of the Toronto Raptors for the Atlantic Division lead. They were built for playoff basketball and are finally coming together, which is why nobody wants to face them come playoff time.
Don’t forget how Deron Williams has upped his game in the playoffs. Williams averages 21.1 points, 9.4 assists and 1.2 steals per game in his 51 career playoff games, as compared to his regular season averages of 17.5 points, 8.8 assists and 1.1 steals. He carried his Utah teams and although he’s yet to win a playoff series with the Nets, he’ll do his part to make it happen this time around.
We don’t need to go too far into detail about Paul Pierce and his heroics over the years, as you’ve all heard that story before. However, did you realize that Pierce has played in 136 playoff games in his career? A season and a half worth of games when the spotlight shines the brightest means no shot is too big for him and he’ll feel no pressure. It also bears noting that during the Nets modest three-game win streak, he’s averaging 14.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.3 steals in just 26.9 minutes per game. He’s still got something left in the tank.
Kevin Garnett will always be remembered differently depending on when you became a fan of his. If you followed him during his Minnesota days, you probably think of him as an intense warrior who would give 110 percent every night. If you picked up his career in Boston, he was more of the same, with a villainous tinge to his game. Now, he’s broken down and a shell of himself — except, he’s still able to produce in short spurts.
KG understands his role in that he’s expected to defend, make an open jumper and clean the defensive glass. He’s scored in double digits just once in his last nine games, with averages of 6.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 17.1 minutes per game. I wouldn’t expect a hefty uptick in minutes come April, but he’ll give everything he has for that short time he has left.
Lastly, we can talk about Joe Johnson. He’s the Nets leading scorer and one of the best options at the end of games. I’ve been extremely critical of his penchant for taking jumpers over getting to the front of the rim, but that’s neither here nor there for now. He has adapted his game a bit this year, making an effort to get closer to the basket as opposed to taking contested jumpers from the perimeter. He’s taking a career-high 25.9 percent of his field goal attempts from 3-to-10 feet, making 48.4 percent of them. I’d be picking nits to raise a fuss about him stopping short instead of going to the rim, but at least he’s trending in the right direction.
Next time we’ll look at the bench.
Tags: Brooklyn Nets