The Brooklyn Nets are off to a surprising start this season – in a negative sense. A team expected to be an Atlantic Division leader instead finds itself tied with their crosstown rivals, the New York Knicks, firmly in the basement with 3 wins against 10 losses. The Nets have one win in their past nine starts, and the Toronto Raptors would relish a chance to hurt Brooklyn some more. The Nets’ roster, which consists of a slew of former All-Stars like Paul Pierce, Deron Williams and Kevin Garnett, has been ravaged by injury. Talented veterans of the calibre of Andrei Kirilenko, Brook Lopez, Jason Terry and Willliams are all sidelined.
Like a wounded bear, the Nets may be at their most dangerous. The Raps can still win this game if they:
- Pay close attention to Joe Johnson. The Nets’ shooting guard can change the game with his 3-point shooting (45.6%), so Raps defenders will need to keep Johnson in view, fight through screens, and close out on his shots. Johnson plays well off the ball, so the Raps will need to switch their coverage speedily to keep him in check, or to challenge his shot, at a minimum.
- Take advantage of the Nets’ porous defense. Brooklyn is ranked #23 in the NBA, surrendering 103 PPG [Points Per Game]. The Raps will need to crash the defensive boards (which means neutralizing solid rebounders Garnett, Andray Blatche and ex-Rap Reggie Evans) and get out and run. Pierce and Garnett have played a combined 33 years in the NBA – surely we can expect the youthful Raps to be able to get a step on them. In the half-court offense, the Raps must get everyone involved, which means lots of quick passes.
- Get to the free throw line. DeMar DeRozan can hurt the Nets by attacking the basket and getting fouled. With the Nets roster so thin, forcing one or more of their starters to sit down with foul trouble will be valuable. With Lopez out, the Nets have little or no shot blocking beyond Garnett.
The Nets are better than they have shown so far. I think they will surprise the Division-leading Raps, who may be looking ahead to Friday’s tilt with Miami. The Nets win a close game 105-102.
We may see: Alan Anderson hurt his former team…Kyle Lowry dominate emergency starter Shaun Livingston…Nets rookie Mason Plumlee covering Jonas Valanciunas.
Anthony Harvey is a fan of all major sports, but particularly basketball and his hometown Toronto Raptors. He hopes to be a sports broadcaster or writer in future. Watch for more posts from Anthony here at Raptors Rapture.