After a crummy stretch it has been a good week in Brooklyn. Not only have the Nets won three in a row (pretty convincingly, I might add; average margin of 17 points) and D-Will had a historic game, but the Pacer, Bulls and Celtics lost Sunday, Hawks have lost two in a row, and the Knicks are hurting (lost Amar’e for the remainder of the regular season while Melo is also dealing with an injury).
The defense has been good all year, but has really stepped up recently, holding opponents to an average of 86 points over the last seven games. And for the offense where turnovers have been one of the biggest issues, after averaging 21 turnovers in four games, the Nets have had just 9 and 11 in their last two contests (and 4 of those in the last game were committed by the backup center). The third quarter has been Brooklyn’s bugaboo, but they have dominated it in their three recent wins. Those three games last week were to the Bobcats, Wizards and at the Hawks, not exactly Murderer’s Row; but a road win over a playoff team and another win against a Wizards’ team that stuck it to the Nets a couple weeks ago are still good wins.
After a poor first half, Deron Williams has been a renewed player since sitting out a couple games around the All-Star break. He is scoring 23.1 points a game (6.4 more than before) and is shooting 47% from the floor (up from 41%). He had one of the best games of his career this week, shooting the lights out against the Wizards (nine of his eleven three pointers in the first half, including nailing his first eight) and looks much more comfortable around the court.
Kris Humphries signed a $24M/2 year deal in the offseason. He is now not only out of the starting lineup but out of the bench rotation as well. Even though he is totally healthy he has not even been on the court the last three games, which have all been blowouts. (Even Tyshawn Taylor and Tornike Shengelia are getting minutes.) That makes Hump, unquestionably, the most overpaid player in the NBA. And to think Brooklyn had a chance to trade him before the deadline and didn’t…
The other player struggling mightily this season is Gerald Wallace. Offensively there are few players that have been more… offensive. On the season Crash is making just 30.1% of his jump shots, 48.6% of his layups (layups!) and 63.9% of his free throws. And in the second half he is a dismal 37.8% from the field.
There are still issues at power forward. Humphries is not playing and Gerald Wallace doesn’t help much. Reggie Evans is among the best rebounders in the NBA but also a liability on offense (missed 11 free throws on Friday). P.J. Carlesimo is giving Mirza Teletovic an opportunity to play more (58 minutes the last three games) but scored just 11 points last week. If he doesn’t pick it up then we may be seeing more Humphries back on the court.
With 19 games left the Nets are in good shape. Their next four are very winnable: @Sixers, Hornets, Hawks, @Pistons, and if they are able to win those they will be 41-26. But that is followed by their toughest stretch of the season, seven straight on the road (eight counting the Pistons) including games against the Mavs, Clippers, Blazers, Nuggets and Jazz. The Nets are taking advantage of this soft spot late in the season and should use it to get them ready for the playoffs, with those challenging games out West as primers.
I want to see more continued control of the basketball and some improvement by either Mirza or Humphries. But I like what I’m seeing out of Deron Williams. Considering their .333 winning percentage a year ago, a #3 playoff seed would be quite an improvement and a good spring into next season.