Nets Need to Keep Pushing for that Higher Seed
After the win at home against Houston on Tuesday, the Nets home streak reached a remarkable 14. With only eight games left in the season, the Nets currently find themselves as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. They currently reside two and half games behind the Chicago Bulls and the Atlantic Division leading Toronto Raptors. With the way the team has been playing at home, the Nets would be advantageous to finish in the top four in the conference to get home court in the first round. The schedule may give them respite, but it’s still going to be a task infused with another winning streak. Both Toronto and Brooklyn have only one remaining game against a winning team, with the Nets having an extra game in hand. The Nets, however, need to play New York and Atlanta, two teams vying for the last spot in the playoffs.
The home court advantage didn’t serve the Nets well in last year’s playoff series versus the Bulls. The Nets lost two out of four games at Barclays Center, including the pivotal Game Seven. This year, the Nets are a different team. They are a more cohesive unit and have an identity that didn’t exist in last year’s squad. They exude a mental toughness that resembles that of their head coach, and thrive on being strength in unison, as opposed to individual stars. Of course, last year they didn’t have the veteran presence throughout their roster like they do this year. Maybe that’s why the home court has taken on such a significant factor for this team. Great teams can win anywhere, but consistent winning starts with having an advantage at home, almost like the effect of holding serve in tennis.
Jason Kidd has prepared for this run by managing minutes judiciously for the veterans, and has already started loosening the reins, so to speak, on his team leaders. Deron Williams has benefited from a gradual integration into the full time flow and it has shown in his explosiveness off the dribble, despite still not being 100 percent. Paul Pierce, after suffering a neck stinger, has recovered well showing quickness and disruption on defense. The team also looks to get Kevin Garnett and Andrei Kirilenko back soon off injuries just in the nick of time. While the team’s depth has enabled them to thrive, the intensity Garnett and Kirilenko can bring on the glass and on defense would be beneficial for a team that has had trouble guarding the rim at times. It’s not clear how effective KG will be when he returns, but his leadership is always an added benefit.
Regardless of how they finish in the standings, Toronto or Chicago is likely to be the first round opponent. Both teams have beaten the Nets twice this year and pose multiple challenges. A home court advantage would be worth a strong finish.
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