Nets Have Much On The Line In Game 7

BROOKLYN – After a brutal loss in Game 4 of their first-round series with the Chicago Bulls, the Brooklyn Nets have fought their way back and earned a Game 7 on their home floor on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, TNT).

Game 7s are always huge for both teams, but these 48 minutes will absolutely define the Nets’ season. It will be the difference between accomplishment and disappointment.

The guys Tom Thibodeau puts on the floor will fight for every possession, but the Bulls basically punted this season with the moves they made (or didn’t make) last summer. Their star player hasn’t played a single minute and four more key players are far less than 100 percent. If they lose, we understand that they were undermanned and they retool for next season. They’ve already established a culture of defense, toughness and resilience, which will be there as long as Thibodeau is on the bench.

The Nets, however, haven’t established anything other than a willingness to spend money. There’s a lot of culture outside the Barclays Center, but not necessarily in the locker room.

But if the Nets win Game 7, they’ve at least established themselves as a top-four team in the Eastern Conference and put themselves in a conference semifinals matchup with the juggernaut Miami Heat, where no one will expect them to win more than a game. They will have proven that they too have some resilience, becoming only the ninth team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 deficit.

If the Nets lose, what are they? They’re a team that didn’t come close to making the most of their talent and lost to a depleted team held together by gauze tape.

Derrick Rose¬†and Luol Deng are not playing. Kirk Hinrich¬†probably isn’t playing either. Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson are banged up and Nate Robinson was throwing up on the bench on Thursday. No, the Nets aren’t 100 percent, but their issues are nothing compared to those of Chicago’s M.A.S.H unit.

So Game 7 is truly a referendum on all things Nets. Here’s who has a lot on the line Saturday:

Billy King: The Nets general manager got his contract extension, but still has a lot of work to do if he wants to turn this team into a true contender. Brooklyn was the league’s most improved team this season, because King spent a lot of Mikhail Prokhorov‘s money.

But $139 million of that money is going to Gerald Wallace and Joe Johnson, who are both on the wrong side of 30 and who both had disappointing seasons. There’s spending money, and there’s spending money wisely.

A playoff victory doesn’t necessarily validate the trades that brought Johnson and Wallace here, but the Nets aren’t necessarily done putting this team together either. A series win is something to build on and maybe something to help convince veteran free agents (and/or a great coach) that this is the place to be.

The Nets’ defense: The Bulls are a pretty bad offensive team. They ranked 24th on that end of the floor in the regular season, and that was with some of their players healthier than they are now. But they’ve been able to hang with the Nets in this series, in part because the Brooklyn defense has been rather porous, especially when trying to stop Chicago’s pick-and-roll attack.

Chicago basically has two guys who can beat you: Carlos Boozer and Robinson. And Robinson is just as likely to shoot the Bulls out of a game as he is to shoot them into one. If the Nets can’t stop these guys, they’ve got a lot of ‘splaining to do.

Deron Williams: Williams has silenced his critics, playing much better over the last 2 1/2 months and making it clear that his early-season struggles were injury-related. But if he’s truly back to being an elite point guard, he has to prove it on Saturday. He has got to be aggressive offensively, get his team to move the ball, and put it on himself to stay in front of Robinson defensively.

Talent has never been a question with Williams. Leadership, however, has. To win a Game 7 against a resilient opponent, the Nets will need a leader on the floor.

Brook Lopez: Returning from two foot injuries suffered last season, Lopez has established himself as an All-Star and the best offensive center in the league. Just as important, he has taken a step forward defensively.

Lopez has been the best player in this series, but has struggled in the second half of some of these games. He has shot 8-for-24 in the third quarter, in which the Nets have struggled most of the series (and most of the season too).

In fact, in the second half of 10 total games against the Bulls this season, Lopez has shot just 28-for-70 (40 percent). The final regular season meeting ended with Lopez turning the ball over, getting blocked by Nazr Mohammed, and missing a jumper to tie at the buzzer, allowing the Bulls to escape with a two-point victory.

It’s one thing to be an All-Star. It’s another to be a guy your team can count on to get you big buckets in a do-or-die situation. And even before we get to the closing moments of Game 7, Lopez’s pick-and-roll defense will also be in the spotlight.

P.J. Carlesimo: It seems like a foregone conclusion that the Nets’ interim coach won’t be asked to return this summer, and he probably won’t receive much credit if the Nets win this series. But he’ll clearly get much of the blame if they lose, because it’s supposed to be the coach’s job to make the most of his team’s talent.

This team hasn’t done that. The offense has been inconsistent and the defense has been mediocre, at best. Reserves MarShon Brooks and Mirza Teletovic, who could possibly have contributed more (and helped space the floor), failed to develop.

Carlesimo wasn’t put in an easy position, of course. He was handed a team that had lost 10 of its last 13 games in late December. He deserves credit for righting the ship and getting the Nets’ best players playing better. That probably won’t save his job though.

In this series, Carlesimo has been slow to adjust. His starting lineup has struggled offensively, but has played the most minutes (119) of any lineup in the postseason (no other Nets lineup has played more than 13 minutes). He has navigated his team through two elimination-game victories, but has one more to go and can’t let a bad lineup stay on the floor for too long.

28 Comments

  1. jeff says:

    PJ needs to be replace as a coach. Game 7, Joe Johnson offensive game was off. He was non productive. PJ should had replace him period. I hope they don’t trade Mashon Brooks. He is a talented player and need to play more to develop his talent. He can play 1,2, and 3 positions. His natural position is the shooting guard or play-maker guard.

  2. Gillsy says:

    This is what I said a few weeks ago you see a team like the Warriors that have only put together recently, after a few trades, a few rookies and second year players, have meshed with each and look like a team. Compared to a group with the Net’s that looks good on paper and scary if you have pay the bills, but looks out of place with each other. I know the Heat didn’t all click on the first day. But I can’t see this group clicking at all.

  3. Patty says:

    PLAYERS ALWAYS WANT TO BLAME THE COACHES WHEN THEY DIDNOT PLAY SMART TO WIN!!!

  4. BID says:

    problem with the nets it’s the way the team is built…. they only have decent offensive players (not efficient) and no very good defenders on the roster but cj watson at least not now that johnson and wallace are both past their primes plus the lack of a defensive-minded coach makes them very vulnerable on the defensive end and history don’t lie almost all championship teams have been good on defense

  5. KnickHater says:

    Win or lose, this has been a great season for the Nets. I never used see Nets gear anywhere, not even in NJ. Now I our stuff everywhere. I think players will still want to come here, because they Mikhail will spend the money to make the team better. We need a better coach, and we need to develop our younger players. The only mistake I’ve seen Mikhail make is bringing back Billy King.

  6. Darshil says:

    If Chicago advances – Miami will win the series 4-1. Chicago is struggling to stay healthy and the chances of D-Rose returning this year is none. If he even returns against Miami, Miami will still win it.

    If Nets advances – Miami will sweep the series. I dont think Nets have a chance winning against Miami after the hard fought battle against the Bulls and barely beating them even with their main guys injured.

  7. Timmy says:

    D-Rose is a woman. D-Will is a man.

    Nets by 20.

  8. TG says:

    To Lopez?… if you haven’t noticed..The majority of the article was pertaining to the Brooklyn Nets… and Lopez is undoubtedly the the best offensive center in the league and a top 3 Center. He is not a great rebounder but he’s not NEARLY as bad as people make him out to be. Lopez competes with Reggie Evans and Kris Humphries… 2 superb rebounders… As well as the other teams rebounders… Lopez also almost will NEVER chase down lose ball rebounds which tend to add up. Lopez without Reggie Evans would EASILY grab 8.5 – 9 a game. its not rocket science.

  9. Lopez? says:

    After reading this article, the whole question I have is…
    Lopez, the most important player in this series? Of the series as a whole, Noah has been the most important, being everywhere on defense, energetic as usual even through injury, and discouraging Lopez’s postups.
    Enough about Rose.

  10. BolognaMachine says:

    Whatever excuses Bulls fans have can save it. David Lee at least came back and played 2 minutes but clearly they didn’t need him. The fact remains: Derrick Rose is sitting on the bench healthy and cleared (for months now!) watching his Bulls SQUIRM. I think it’s rather pathetic that the NBA has situations like this today… I miss the real basketball days where Larry Bird would play through a shot back, broken feet and a broken cheek bone. One series (against the Pacers, which he won) after every game in the 6-game series, he spent the nights in the hospital.

  11. asil says:

    if nets win against bulls, miami will sweep them through florida. If Bulls win against nets, they have a way better chance with a 2-2 record this season vs heat.

  12. Guntoter 2 says:

    Heeyy Bama why are you shouting?

  13. ez does it says:

    its funny..the bulls are a good team play goood defense but i got the nets winning this game..and giving the heat some trouble…look what brandon jennings did to the heat that 1st game..i didnt watch the rest of the series but the heat have trouble against really good point guards and we all no deron steps up during the play offs…even if the heat play the bulls they will beat the bulls but i think maybe they will have trouble with the nets…and as for d rose he is ready PHYSICALLY but mentally not..

  14. SkengD says:

    NBA Facts you have no clue what you are talking about

  15. BullsNation23 says:

    D. Rose is not playing because the bulls do not want to pay him out of pocket when he can sit for the last few games and insurance cover his yearly expenses. So lets stop calling him soft or scared or whatever else you can think of that you know nothing about

  16. Bill gobble says:

    Bulls would not have a snowballs chance in hell against Miami, Rose or no Rose

    • NbaFacts says:

      MIAMI IS A GOOD TEAM BUT THEY ARE NOT INVISIBLE REGARDLESS OF THEIR RECORD MIAMI IS A JOKE. THEY WILL NEVER LIVE UP TO AN ERA BETTER THAN CHICAGO’S OR ANY OTHER TEAMS WITH LEGENDS SUCH AS MAGIC, BIRD, ERVING, ETC. THEY ARE PLACED IN A POSITION WHERE ALL ROSTERS ARE MESSED UP AND WHERE STARS ARE ONLY AT A FEW 7. MIAMI WOULD BE DESTROYED IF THEY WERE COMPETING AGAINST HISTORY TEAMS. THEY ARE THE BEST NOW BUT WILL NEVER BE THE BEST EVER AND THAT GOES FOR LEBRON AS WELL. THEY STRUGGLE WITH MINOR TEAMS AND CANNOT REBOUND. A GOOD TEAM IS AN ALL AROUND TEAM MIAMI IS JUST AN OFFENSIVE THREAT PERIOD.

      • autoperception says:

        You have Caps Lock on, just incase you didn’t notice. And, incidentally, I agree… The Miami Heat are not invisible. Quite easy to see actually. Opaque, even.

      • Vanessa says:

        YOU SOUND VERY JEALOUS! JUST ACCEPT GREATNESS!!!!!!

      • keriko says:

        @ NbaFacts First off, turn your caps lock off. That doesn’t make you’re post any better, just more obnoxious. Second off, you said Miami is invisible, it’s spelled *invincible. Maybe you’re right about the Heat not beating those great Celtics teams with Russell or Bird, or those lakers teams with Abdul-Jabar or Magic, or the Bulls with Jordan and Pippen. But to say Miami is a joke is absolutely ridiculous. How is a team that is 66-16, a fluke? Not to mention they just won the NBA championship last year, and are on track to do it again this year. I’m not saying they are the best team ever, but if they win the championship this year they are on their way to being in the conversation. I don’t think this team is the best ever, but I do think Lebron James is the best player on this planet currently and I think with a couple more championships he is most certainly in the conversation for best ever. The only players to win 4 MVP’s are Jordan, Chamberlain, Abdul-Jabar, and Russell. Now you can add Lebron into that group. He is definitely one of the best players in the history of the sport, I mean Christ he nearly averaged a triple-double this year, along with every other season in his nba career. So quit being such a hater, and just respect the man and what he’s accomplishing with this team. Also, I’m a hawks fan.

      • MV3 says:

        @keriko MVPs dont even mean much. just given to whoever the nba wants to get it. the player who gets the most media attention is almost always going to get it regardless if other players deserve it more. 08-09 Season Wade should of got it. 09-10 season Kobe. 10-11 season yea Lebron deserved it. 11-12 Durant really should have gotten it. This year i would argue durant or Melo deserve it more then lebron. And im not a lebron hater btw i just think the MVP voting system is a joke. how can a player on a team with 2 other superstars who are performing well get an MVP when players on other teams are carrying teams with alot less support

      • One of the king's subjects says:

        @MV3 If you put the fact that lebron had two superstars, that means Jordan, Bird, Isaiah, Russell, Chamberlin, Kareem, and Magic shouldn’t win the award, even though these stars had not just hall of famers, but their teammates are some of the 50 greatest players of ALL TIME. Lebron has a superstar and an all star, but Magic had the all time leader in career points, and he had Big Game James. Bird was apart of the BIG 3, Isaiah’s bad boys had a complete team, Russel had Sam Jones and John Havlicek. MVP isn’t a joke, and those who won it won it because they’re the best. Its not the most valuable player on a team, but to the leauge, and Lebron is more valuabe than durant, kobe, and melo. He was in 09, 10, and 12, and he will be again in 13.

    • Showbaba Canada says:

      You are 100% right about that. Bulls has zero % chance against Miami.

  17. JB says:

    Marc Gasol is the best offensive center in the league. In fact, he’s the best center in the league, period.

    • Mohammed says:

      Marc Gasol is the best center in the league this year. I love him and the Grizzlies. Yes, he has good offense but he is not the best offensive center. This year, best offensive center has to be Brook Lopez. I have seen every Bulls-Nets matchup because I am a Chicago fan and Brook Lopez IS the best scoring 5 in the game this year. But he needs to work on his rebounding.

  18. BackToBack says:

    D.Rose IS the healthiest man on that locker room, and he should play…not 30 or 40 minutes, but he should at least make an appearance, he owes that not only to the fans, but to his teamates

    • The Worm 91 says:

      play 10-15 minutes and gets injured again and never ever to play again. nice! just leave the superstar and let him play next season. the bulls are banged up. even if he plays and win the series, although i believe that they could beat miami, but perhaps not this time. not in this roster situation.

      • W/E says:

        OMG why ppl have it for granted that if he plays now hes gunna get injured again? THat might happen at any time to anyone, why he doesnt retire if he is so scared of re-injuring, NBA is a tough physical league, he gotta make a decision if he is so scared of reinjuring his knee he should just retire from the NBA and get a job at an office or something. THats just stupid to see him healthy watching from the bench doing nothing while his teammates are playing crippled.