Can the Brooklyn Nets advance deep into the playoffs?

Image Courtesy of the Brooklyn Nets

Image Courtesy of the Brooklyn Nets

At the start of the season the situation looked bleak for the Brooklyn Nets.  They were not playing like a team, star players were playing subpar basketball, and the team was plagued with injuries to key players.  The Nets ended the month of December with a 113-92 loss to the San Antonio Spurs including a 10-21 record.  It was stated that the team had a bunch of old players on the roster, and many speculated that rookie head coach Jason Kidd was on his way out the door.  Nets center Kevin Garnett told Yahoo Sports NBA writer Marc J. Spears “It’s gonna be alright, give it some time and it’s gonna be alright.”

Garnett was right because the Nets turned it around and began to elevate north of the NBA standings.  Even without Garnett out of the lineup due to injuries, they are the best team in the Eastern Conference and arguably the best team in the NBA since the beginning of the year.

On Tuesday night, the Nets got one of their biggest victories of the season when they visited reigning NBA champs the Miami Heat.  The Nets won another close game, 88-87.  The game had a spectacular ending when rookie forward Mason Plumlee denied LeBron James‘ dunk attempt at the rim in the closing seconds of regulation.  Plumlee roared exuberantly, while James watched with disbelief looking for a foul.  The game-saving block helped the Brooklyn Nets finish off a four-game season sweep of the two-time defending champions.

The Final cumulative scores of all four Brooklyn-Miami games: Nets 389, Heat 377. Brooklyn won three of the games by a single point, becoming the third team in NBA history to have that many narrowest-of-margin wins over an opponent in the same regular season and the first team ever to do so without playing more than four times.

Are the Nets legitimate playoff threats to the Heat?  If both teams were to meet in the postseason, do the Nets have a legitimate chance to knock off the two-time defending champions?

The Heat still have to be the overwhelming favorites.  They have the best player in the NBA in LeBron James,  they are the two-time defending champs, and three-time defending Eastern Conference champs.  Since James, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade joined forces in South Beach, they have lost just one playoff series and won 11.  Brooklyn is just 43-34 this season and currently in the fifth seed in the East, however, they have now shown that they do have the ability to defeat the Heat in the playoffs.

Brooklyn certainly has the veteran leadership to do it.  Small forward Paul Pierce and Garnett won a championship together with the Boston Celtics in 2008.  In 2010, they came within one victory of winning another ring as they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Seven of the NBA Finals.  They knocked off James and the Cleveland Cavaliers en route to their Finals appearances each time.  In 2012, the Celtics pushed the Heat to a game seven in the Eastern Conference Finals where James’ team ultimately prevailed.

Jason Kidd was a part of the Dallas Mavericks team that defeated Miami in the Finals in 2011.  Even though he is now a first-year head coach, he knows what it takes to be able to beat Miami in the playoffs.  Another factor in favor of the Nets is that they have one of the deepest teams in the league.  The Nets could easily go 12  players deep on any given night.  They can hurt you in so many ways, both inside and out.

During the NBA Playoffs, teams take their game to another level, but if the Heat and the Nets meet in the playoffs, Brooklyn may have what it takes to survive, advance, and dethrone the champs.