At the start of the season, the Brooklyn Nets captivated the New York area and had basketball fans intrigued.
The team then underachieved and fired head coach Avery Johnson. Ever since, the Nets have been out of the spotlight. They’ve been completely forgotten within their own conference.
Between the Miami Heat’s 27-game winning streak, Derrick Rose’s unwillingness to rejoin the Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks’ 13-game winning streak, Brooklyn’s been swept under the rug.
Perhaps the league should start paying attention.
The Brooklyn Nets have won seven of their past 10 games. They are peaking at the right time and seem poised for a good postseason run. Part of their recent turnaround can be attributed to the play of their multimillion-dollar backcourt.
Joe Johnson’s been a solid clutch performer this season and figures to be a prominent figure for the Nets going forward.
The unquestionable catalyst for the Nets as of late though is Deron Williams. The player that many argued once upon a time was on the same level as Chris Paul is officially back.
Since the beginning of March, Williams has been averaging 23.2 points and 8.1 assists per game on 48.5 percent field goal shooting.
The Nets’ point guard has been nothing short of sensational. He’s been getting in the lane more often by simply breaking down defenders off the dribble. Also, he’s been masterful in the pick-and-roll, baiting defenders into stepping up on him and blowing by them.
Once in the paint, the former Utah Jazz member has been either taking the ball to the rim, dishing off to his big people or kicking the ball out to shooters. Not so coincidentally, Brooklyn is the proud owner of the fourth best offense in the league since March 1 per NBA.com’s advanced stats tool.
Brook Lopez has increased his scoring during the run by virtue of an uptick in his field goal percentage, thanks partly to the new Deron Williams.
With their point guard playing at an elite level, the Nets dropped 117 points two nights ago on an Indiana Pacers team that boasts the best statistical defense in the league.
The Toronto Raptors will unquestionably have a tough task on their hands at the Air Canada Centre today when they host their divisional foes.
The Raps are coming off back-to-back victories over the Chicago Bulls and are more than happy to play spoiler down the stretch for teams with playoff aspirations.
Despite matching up against the Bulls’ tough perimeter defenders in the past two contests, Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan averaged a combined 40.5 points per game on 50 percent field goal shooting against them in the back-to-back contests.
Needless to say, how the Raptors’ swingmen perform will go a long way towards deciding the outcome of the contest, but that’s not the lone area of concern.
Since remerging as a playoff contender on March 1, Brooklyn has been the second best offensive rebounding team in the league according to NBA.com’s advanced stats tool. That’s pertinent given that Toronto has been in the bottom five teams in allowing opposing offensive rebounds during the same stretch.
Brooklyn by 5.
Kyle Lowry and Deron Williams should give us a good show.
Enjoy the game folks.
Statistical support provided by NBA.com.Follow @raptorsrepublic