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Nets Return Home With a Split, Game Plan Still Intact

by Sean Flattery | Posted on Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014
(Image via NBA.com)

(Image via NBA.com)

Last night’s 100-95 loss to the Toronto Raptors in Game 2 was enigmatic for the Brooklyn Nets.   The Nets lost the battle of the boards 52-30; including 19 offensive rebounds yet still had a chance to win the game in the final minutes.  There were numerous opportunities to salvage victory late, specifically Paul Pierce’s wide open three point attempt with 24.9 seconds remaining that rimmed out.  Toronto’s ability to execute in the fourth quarter became the difference inevitably despite the rebounding disparity.

DeMar Derozan undoubtedly was the key nemesis in Game 2, but not in the manner that should give the Nets any panic.  Sure, the big men failed to impede a few drives to the basket and that’s something to focus on in Game 3, but Derozan’s ability to elevate and hit mid-range jumpers became the weapon of choice in fourth quarter that did the Nets in.  Coming into the series, one of Jason Kidd’s primary focuses was going to be to slow the speedy and dynamic Raptors backcourt from getting into the lanes and creating easy opportunities. For the most part, the Nets have done well besides last night’s fourth quarter.

Kyle Lowry and Derozan should get their points, but making them work harder and expend energy will theoretically wear them down forcing them to turn over the ball.  The latter was certainly true last night, as the Nets were able to force 20 turnovers, six from Derozan.  Andrei Kirilenko’s presence was felt as his length and defense prowess tallied him four steals and numerous shot alterations. The Nets in all had 14 steals, compared to three from Toronto, a key stat considering how many second chance opportunities the Raptors were able to secure via the boards.

The familiar trend of the Nets tenacious disruption on defense via steals and creating turnovers is what fueled the Nets resilience in Game 2.  While Toronto’s fourth quarter shooting (12 of 16) and Derozan’s 30 point performance became the difference, it shouldn’t change much of the game plan going forward.  Toronto‘s quickness and toughness is no surprise for Kidd and the Nets; they knew Lowry, Derozan and Jonas Valanciunas’ posed formidable matchup problems.

Rebounding has been an issue all year; Kidd has gone to smaller lineups, and Garnett has missed significant time.  They have persevered as a result of strong team defense and timely shooting, while relying on the veteran leadership to propel them forward. It’s worked, and there’s no reason to see that trend hindered once they take their home floor Friday night for Game 3.

The Nets need to stay the path they’ve made and squeeze these young Raptors at home.  Pierce, after Game 2, stated the Nets ‘’played soft,” which was probably hyperbole.  The defense didn’t do its job in the fourth quarter, that’s probably true, but for the other seven quarters the Nets looked to be the more prepared team.  Toronto, ninth in the regular season in three point shooting pct., has hit only 10 of 39 from deep in the first two games.  Toronto relied on 75 percent fourth quarter shooting and a plus 22 rebounding margin yet barely prevailed last night.  Dwane Casey’s team will need to up their game if they are to return home Sunday night with at least one win.

The Nets have been a dominant force at home, winning 28 of 41 games including a 15-game home winning streak late in the season.

The game plan is still intact; Kidd just needs to “tighten a few screws” on defense, and the Nets should be just fine come Friday night in front of a sure-to-be loud Brooklyn crowd.

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