For the first time since 2015, the Brooklyn Nets have made the playoffs and some view them as a potential upset candidate in their first-round matchup. Their guard play has been phenomenal, with D’Angelo Russell making his first ever All-Star appearance, Spencer Dinwiddie averaging a career-high 17 points per game, and Joe Harris leading the league in three-point percentage, shooting 47 percent on five attempts per game.
Caris LeVert looked on pace to be not only the Most Improved Player before his gruesome injury, but possibly an All-Star candidate with the way he was playing. Since his return, however, we just haven’t seen the same player. He did score at least 15 points in five of his last six games, so it’s possible that LeVert is slowly getting back in rhythm and could play a big role.
Jarrett Allen officially made a name for himself this year as one of the league’s premier rim protectors. He’s not going to give Brooklyn a ton on offense but his defense in the paint has been a huge reason for the Nets making the playoffs.
At season’s end, the Nets found themselves as the sixth seed, facing off against the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round. The two teams split their season series 2-2 with each team blowing out the other at home once and winning a close game on the road once.
The Sixers are favored in this matchup but there are plenty of reasons to expect this to be a close series.
Reason number one is that the Nets’ back court has killed the Sixers this season:
- D’Angelo Russell: Averaged 21 points, 7 assists, and 3.5 rebounds in four games.
- Spencer Dinwiddie: Averaged 24 points, 5.5 assists, and shot 61 percent (11/18) from three in four games.
- Caris LeVert: Averaged 19 points, 2.5 assists, and 4.5 rebounds in two games.
- Joe Harris: Averaged 14 points on 56 percent (10/18) from three in four games.
Also, the Sixers have hit some turbulence to end the season and their starting lineup hasn’t all played in a game together in what seems like months. Whether it’s hobbled players or lack of chemistry, we could see the Sixers struggle out of the gate and the Nets could have an advantage.
Game 1: @76ers – Saturday, 4/13 – 2:30 PM
Game 2: @76ers – Monday, 4/15 – 8:00 PM
Game 3: @Nets – Thursday, 4/18 – 8:00 PM
Game 4: @Nets – Saturday, 4/20 – 3:00 PM
Game 5 (if needed): – Tuesday, 4/23 – TBD
Game 6 (if needed): – Thursday 4/25 – TBD
Game 7 (if needed): Saturday 4/27 – TBD
*times in EST
How can they succeed?
The Nets are going to have possibly the most difficult schedule in the playoffs, starting at Philly and their big five, then possibly moving on to Kawhi Leonard and the deep Raptors, and then moving on to the Milwaukee Bucks, who finished the season with the league’s best record. Basically, this team needs a miracle to succeed.
The Nets need a couple of things to happen to make some noise. They need October Caris LeVert to come back which isn’t entirely out of the realm of possibility after how he ended his season. They also need Spencer Dinwiddie to come back to form after a horrible end to the season. With those two playing at their peaks, D’Angelo Russell continuing to play at the level he is, and Jarrett Allen providing the interior defense he does, this team can compete with anyone – especially when benches get shorter in the playoffs.
Who is their X-Factor?
Spencer Dinwiddie needs to bounce back for the Nets to have any kind of hope. Dinwiddie was once viewed as a potential Most Improved Player and Sixth Man of the Year winner towards the early stages of the season. However, those conversations hit a wall when an injury sidelined him for a month. He put up some solid performances immediately after returning but things have fallen off for him hard as the season came to a close.
SPENCER CLUTCH DINWIDDIE WINNING THE GAME FOR THE NETS!!!
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) November 1, 2018
Over the course of the season, Dinwiddie’s perimeter shooting has fallen off a cliff. He went from shooting 43 percent in October, to 29 percent in March, to 15.4 percent in April. In his last seven games, Dinwiddie went just 5-for-37 from beyond the arc.
If that’s the same Spencer Dinwiddie we see during the Philly series, a team who is very vulnerable to dominant guard performances, I don’t think we’ll be seeing many Nets games this April.
One positive stat in their favor
The Sixers won 51 games this year but are only 8-10 in games where Embiid is out of the lineup. Guess what? Joel Embiid isn’t healthy. Embiid matches up well with Jarrett Allen because he doesn’t have to worry about Allen stretching the floor and can set up shop in the paint as an elite interior defender. This not only helps with sticking to his defensive strengths, but less chasing on defense means Embiid has more energy on offense. That’s a recipe for disaster for any opponent.
The Nets might catch a break and could steal a game on the road if Embiid makes a late entrance to the series. Even if he does play, he could be hobbled to the point where we don’t see the sheer dominance that he displays when healthy.