The Brooklyn Nets have clinched the No. 5 playoffs seed after defeating James Harden and the Houston Rockets, final score 105-96. The win gives the Nets their 40th victory of the season as they trail the Chicago Bulls by only two games in hopes of capturing the No. 4 playoffs seed in the Eastern Conference. Earlier in the season the team struggled, head Coach Jason Kidd was under serious scrutiny as many believed he was unqualified and in way over his head. Fast forward to the second half of the season where the Nets have one of the best records in the NBA since January, a tremendous turnaround from having such an abysmal winning percentage. Their success has also paid dividends to several members of the team – Jason Kidd has enjoyed multiple Eastern Conference coach of the month awards and the team has become a cohesive unit that thrives on the defensive end of the court.
The Nets have also fought through the injuries of key players Brook Lopez and Kevin Garnett, both players have been sidelined an extensive amount of games. Lopez looks to be out the entire season while Garnett should return before the beginning of the postseason. Despite a Nets team without the contributions of their All-Star center ( Lopez ) and championship veteran ( Garnett ), several players have emerged in their presence to become the defensive and offensive anchors for the team. Without these players stepping up to accept the challenge, the Nets would not enjoy their current success. As the postseason begins, the following players must maintain their high level of play.
Lets take an inside look at the Brooklyn Nets 5 keys to success.
1. Deron Williams:
Williams is the heart of the soul of the team, without him holding down the point guard position the offense wouldn’t flow as we’ll. He seems to have his confidence back and his ability to penetrate, finish at the rim, shoot from the arc, and pass the ball to the open teammate to knock down the open shot are what makes this team difficult to defend against.
2. Joe Johnson:
Johnson has been the most consistent scorer for the Brooklyn Nets and he has been the best inside/outside player on the team. Offensively, Johnson is one of the most important players on this team. What makes him valuable to the team is his ability to shoot the ball from anywhere on the court, and when he utilizes his strength to overpower smaller guards in the post area, the Nets are an even better team. During late minutes in the 4th quarter, Johnson is the “go to guy” when the team needs points, but he has to stay aggressive and out of foul trouble in order to keep his team in contention.
3. Paul Pierce:
The savy veteran hasn’t been the primary scorer for the team but his knowledge, leadership, and experience are what helps his team stay together as a cohesive unit. Pierce isn’t afraid to take the “big shot” and he knows exactly when and where to turn “it” on. I expect Pierce to “arrive” during the playoffs where he is known to put up huge numbers offensively.
4. Mason Plumlee:
Plumlee has been one of the most surprising NBA rookies this season and he has performed like a player with years of NBA experience. This kid has accepted the challenge and has become the best interior defender for the Nets in the absence of Kevin Garnett. What I like about Plumlee is his athleticism, the ability to block shocks, he’s not afraid to score the ball, and he can finish above the rim. This season Plumlee has been the best center for the Nets, and he will only improve as a player under the guidance of Kevin Garnett and Jason Kidd. Plumlee has made a great case for the 2014 NBA Rookie of the Year.
5. Bench Production:
The Brooklyn Nets winning attitude and overall effectiveness this season can be largely attributed to their bench scoring. Andray Blatche, Mirza Teletovic, Shaun Livingston, and Marcus Thornton have provided huge sparks off the bench for their team. At the guard position Livingston has been a nightmare for defenders on both ends of the court because of his length and ability to post-up smaller guards. Teletovic has been a huge threat from the 3-point line, shooting 38 percent from the arc while Thornton and Blache have been capable up putting up double digit numbers on any given night.
Moving forward, If the Nets wish to maintain an effective bench, they will certainly require the contributions of Andrei Kirilenko and Kevin Garnett as the post season approaches. I expect this team to continue their success during the playoffs but they really need Garnett back in the lineup as he provides the team with defensive depth.