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On March 12th the Brooklyn Nets defeated the Miami Heat 95-94. As a stand-alone win, this does not mean much. However, this was third time the Nets defeated the reigning champions this year.
While everyone has been focusing on the Heat and the Indiana Pacers, Brooklyn has quietly been surging. Since January 1st, the Nets have gone 24-10. This can be attributed to a wide range of changes made with this organization.
However, no matter how well these changes have proven, this season will be a failure for Brooklyn if they cant make the finals. Therefore, the real question is can the Nets beat the Pacers and Heat? In a word, yes.
Let start with what has changed with the Nets play. As mentioned before, the Nets have looked completely different since the New Year began. The first notable change has been in the lineup. When Brook Lopez went down, coach Jason Kidd had no idea what the new lineup would look like. At one point, Kidd had Paul Pierce coming off the bench in favor of Alan Anderson. The lineup that finally began to stick was when Coach Kidd decided to play 6’3 point guard Deron Williams in the backcourt with 6’7 backup point guard Shaun Livingston. With that oversized backcourt, the Nets have simply beat other teams guards with their sheer size.
Continuing with the team of unorthodox players, Brooklyn decided to play 6’7 shooting guard Joe Johnson at small forward and the 6’7 small forward Paul Pierce at power forward. This created matchup problems for other teams, on the opposite ends of the spectrum. With their undersized frontcourt, the Nets are able to stretch the floor; creating more open shots for one of their three sharpshooters.
Next comes the depth that this team possesses. One reason the Nets are 3-0 against the Heat this year is because they have more guys who can play quality minutes. Aside from the starting five, Mason Plumlee, Andre Blatche, Marcus Thorton, Andrei Kirilenko, and Mirza Teltovic all provide quality minutesa when they touch the court. All of these players know their roles and execute them quite well.
Now to the matter at hand, can they beat the Heat and/or Pacers? When it comes to Miami, the answer is a fairly simple yes. Brooklyn has shown time and time again that they can shut down the Heats perimeter shooting. With Dwayne Wades having constant knee problems, LeBron and Bosh will only be able to do so much against a team that is ten deep. Every game would be close, but the Nets would prevail in that series.
As far as the Indiana Pacers go, that will be a tougher, but not impossible challenge. Indiana has struggled mightily ever since they acquired Evan Turner. The chemistry has simply changed with Turner trying to adjust to his new role. With that being said, the Pacers will pick it back up. They are too good of a team to be thrown off by chemistry issues. However, there is a striking statistic regarding the Pacers record. Despite a 50-17 record, Indiana is barely over .500 against teams who have a winning record. The Pacers are 3-0 against the Nets this year, but two of those wins came during the terrible month of December, when the Nets couldn’t beat anybody. Either team has the opportunity to win and that’s all Brooklyn needs.
At the end of the day, Brooklyn is finally reaching their potential. While they are unorthodox, the Nets are playing strong team basketball 48 minutes a night. When it comes down to it, the Brooklyn Nets will be right of thick of things come May.
As the NBA season enters its final leg, teams are starting to show their true colors.
While we all know teams like Miami, Indiana, and Oklahoma City are the three favorites to win it all, there is another team that may just be better than all the others. That team is the Houston Rockets.
With tremendous depth, strong leadership, and all around talent, the Houston Rockets are the dark horse to win the title.
Lets start with the talent that Houston possesses. The Rockets have two, separate, but equal All-Stars. At shooting guard, James Harden has been stellar. Since being traded from Oklahoma City to Houston, Harden has averaged 25.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game. He has been a force on both sides of the floor and has become one of the most feared and respected players in the NBA.
In the frontcourt, Dwight Howard continued right where he left off in Orlando. The embattled big man has averaged 18.9 points, 12.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. Since signing with the Rockets in the offseason, Howard has regained his ferocious style of basketball that we were all accustomed to seeing.
Now with those two players alone, the Rockets would have a good team. However, when you look at the rest of the roster, it is an understatement to call this team great. Chandler Parsons, Terrence Jones, Patrick Beverly, and Jeremy Lin provide quality minutes night in and night out. In addition, disgruntled center Omir Asik and newly acquired forward, Jordan Hamilton, provide and even greater spark. Plenty of teams in the NBA have talent, but only a handful are eight deep.
Lastly, while the talent is there, the Rockets wouldn’t be surging like they are without coach Kevin McHales discipline. The Boston Celtics legend has this team playing hard 48 minutes a night. Furthermore, with potential locker room trouble simmering, McHale has done a fantastic job of keeping all of the players on this team, happy or not, in check and accountable. It is a mini miracle in itself that Dwight Howard hasn’t caused any problems, and the credit for that is due to McHale.
Despite last night’s loss to Oklahoma City, the Rockets remain a top contender in the West. With their talent, depth, and leadership, the Rockets have the potential to win it all. Get ready to see a lot of them in May.