The Brooklyn Nets recently wrapped up a four-game series sweep of the Miami Heat with an 88-87 road win.
This is especially impressive considering no other NBA team has swept Miami in any series length. The Nets, who began the year just 3-10, are now 4-0 against the defending champs.
So, how are they doing it?
Now, Brooklyn isn’t a bad team. Far from it, actually.
In the 2014 calender year, the Nets have gone 33-13. As of April 9, Brooklyn is 43-34 overall and sitting fifth in the Eastern Conference standings. The Nets are playing good basketball, but Miami is still the reigning champion and owner of the East’s best record. So why the struggle against the lower-seeded Nets?
First off, there’s the issue of playing style. Brooklyn is a team full of veterans that prefer to slow the game down and score in the half court. The Nets average just 93.6 possessions per game, 25th in the NBA pace rankings (via ESPN.com). Miami matches up very similarly, averaging 93.4 possessions per contest, 26th in the league.
Despite their struggle to score (20th in NBA) and rebound (29th) the ball this year, Brooklyn is one of the league’s top defensive teams (ninth). Against the Heat, their defense only improves.
“They just match up well against us,” Chris Bosh said via Ethan Skolnik of Bleacher Report. “The margin of error’s gonna be very small, because they slow it down, and you’re going to have to play their game. We like to get out and run, fast-break game. They get it, they slow it down, very, very slow. We just have to beat them at that game.”
Brooklyn’s ninth-rated team defense allows 99.2 points per game overall, but just 94.3 against the Heat. While there’s not a dramatic difference in field goal percentage allowed between Miami and the field (46.5 percent to 45.5 percent), the Nets do an excellent job of cutting down on the Heat’s possessions.
Due to their slow playing style and solid team defense, Brooklyn only allows 71 shot attempts when they play the Heat, compared to their season average of 79.6.
Remember how we mentioned the Nets were awful on the glass? Well, Miami’s the only NBA team that’s actually ranks lower in rebounding.
Brooklyn pulls down just 38.1 rebounds per game overall, but increases this total to 40.3 when playing the Heat. Their percentages also see a boost, grabbing 47 percent of all rebounds overall and 54.2 percent against Miami.
“They’ve definitely had our number, that’s obvious,” LeBron James said before the game (via Andrew Keh of the New York Times), citing the Nets’ versatility and ability to create matchup problems as big strengths. “They’ve slowed us down. Offensively, they’ve made us think about what we’re doing and turn the ball over.”
The Nets and Heat are finished playing each other…for now.
A potential playoff series awaits, one that will be much more interesting than what was originally thought.
Can the Nets keep their hot streak going against the Heat? By continuing to play solid defense, slowing the pace down and rebounding, they just might.
-All stats via NBA.com/Stats unless otherwise noted.
Tags: Brooklyn Nets