The Nets are creeping closer to their nightmare. With a loss to Toronto last night, Brooklyn is now tied in the standings with Orlando. Both teams are 39-40, with the Nets owning the tie breaker and sitting in 7th. Both are only a half game up on the Heat, who are currently in 9th place outside of the playoff picture. In 6th is Detroit, who at 39-39 is a half game up on Brooklyn and Orlando.
This horrible stretch of games has not gone well for the Nets. The loss to the Raptors is the latest example. Brooklyn went 2-5 on a 17 day road trip, and just went 1-2 on a three game home stand. The final three games for the Nets are at Milwaukee, at Indiana, and home against Miami.
As it stands, fivethirtyeight still has Brooklyn with a 78% chance of making the playoffs. However, it just feels tighter than that. Jacob Goldstein is putting it at 59%, which instinctively seems more accurate.
From a layman’s perspective, it would appear fivethirtyeight has higher odds based extensively on the last game of the season coming against Miami and as a home game. This isn’t baked into the projection system, but if the Bucks win their next game Milwaukee will clinch the top seed and could perhaps rest starters against the Nets. This would require the Raptors losing to the Hornets, however, so Brooklyn shouldn’t be banking on this.
1. Throw Sh*t at The Walls
..and watch none of it stick. Brooklyn tried everything defensively in this one. At first, they came out with great energy. It was disruptive. They batted balls in passing lanes, made catches difficult, and ruined the timing of set actions.
After the first quarter Toronto had 34 points.
Then came the switch to their zone defense, and it was less disruptive and the Raptors knifed into the open spaces. It threw Toronto off at first, but eventually they figured it out.
So Atkinson broke glass in case of emergency. In a lineup featuring Spencer Dinwiddie with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson as the center, the Nets went super small and switched everything. Maybe this was Atkinson seeing if anything worked against the Raptors given the decent chance these two meet in the first round.
Spoiler: nothing worked. Toronto put up 115 in the game on a 116.2 offensive rating. For context, Golden State leads the league with a 116.0 offensive rating. For a night, the Raptors were the Warriors on offense regardless of what defense Brooklyn deployed.
2. Speaking of Defensive Struggles
Pascal Siakam had a great game. This continues the string of instances where Brooklyn’s athletic opponent has a great game. Siakam finished with 28 points on 11/21 shooting, to go along with 10 rebounds and five assists.
Siakam’s performance is the latest case in a long line of quality performances from premier athletes playing the Nets.
- Bradley Beal – 31 points on 12/22 shooting
- Kemba Walker – 25 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 4 steals
- Derrick Jones Jr. – 18 points on 7/10 shooting
- Larry Nance Jr. – 17 points on 6/10 shooting, 10 rebounds, 4 steals
- John Collins – 33 points on 13/20 shooting, 19 rebounds
- Paul George – 25 points, 9 rebounds
- Russell Westbrook – 31 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists
- Lou Williams – 25 points on 8/16 shooting
- De’Aaron Fox – 27 points on 10/20 shooting, 9 assists
- LeBron James – 25 points, 14 assists, 9 rebounds
- Joel Embiid – 39 points on 12/20 shooting, 13 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals
- Eric Bledsoe – 29 points on 10/19 shooting, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 5 steals
3. Lack of Playmaking
Both Dinwiddie and D’Angelo Russell struggled in this one. The culprit was an elite defense that switches. When Toronto wants to be, they have the ability to be the best defense in the league. Russell notoriously struggles when the defense switches, and while Dinwiddie is more athletic than Russell and better equipped to handle a switch, he isn’t advanced enough to be effective against a defense like the Raptors’.
Combined, the two lead guards went 17/41 from the field, including 5/16 from beyond the arc (Dinwiddie was 0/6 in fairness to Russell). 41 points on 41 shots, and a total of two free throws between them.
Will the Nets Survive?
We only need one question this time. This is all we care about. Will the Nets hang on to their playoff spot, or will the season end in agony (although it should still be considered successful). Jacob has the odds at a little better than a coin flip. It’s not long ago fivethirtyeight had Brooklyn’s playoff odds at 90%, and here we are.
The Nets, Heat last game of the season will be a win and you’re win proposition.
I will suffer a heart attack during the Nets, Heat game.