Nets, Raptors have some cleaning up to do in Game 3

By John Schuhmann,

VIDEO: Raptors-Nets: Game 3 Preview

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ — Since the end of Game 2 of their first round series with the Toronto Raptors, the Brooklyn Nets — Kevin Garnett, especially — have been trying to stoke the fire within their fans, hoping for an atmosphere at Game 3 on Friday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2) similar to the one they saw in Toronto. But in their favor this time.

“I’m very, very, very eager to see how they respond to the ‘F Brooklyn'” Garnett said after practice on Thursday. “Very, very eager to see how they respond to this kid, sitting in our arena.”

“This kid” was apparently a reference to Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri, who incited a Toronto crowd with his “F— Brooklyn” exclamation before Game 1. Later that day, Jason Kidd said he didn’t know who Toronto’s GM was. Then Paul Pierce thought it was Bryan Colangelo. Now, Garnett is calling him “this kid.” These Nets can troll.

But can they rebound? After allowing the Raptors to grab 19 offensive boards in Game 2, rebounding will be more important than how loud the Barclays Center crowd is. So is how well the Raptors — who have 40 turnovers in the two games — hold onto the ball.

Both the Nets’ biggest issue and Raptors’ biggest issue are on the same end of the floor. And both are somewhat a result of Brooklyn’s defensive scheme.

The Nets’ big men hedge hard high on pick-and-rolls in order to stop Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan from penetrating. It’s an aggressive scheme (similar to that of the Miami Heat) and, with the Nets’ length on the perimeter, it helps force turnovers.

At the same time, it takes Brooklyn’s bigs away from the basket, at least temporarily. Here’s an example of Mason Plumlee 20 feet from the rim in an effort to contain DeRozan …



That play resulted in a put-back dunk by Plumlee’s man, Amir Johnson, who had a clear line to the basket.

The Nets will also switch screens liberally, which can leave a small defender on a big rebounder. Here’s Alan Anderson trying to box out Johnson after Pierce switched onto DeRozan …


Result: A loose-ball foul on Anderson and a second chance for Toronto.

Yes, the Nets play small. Yes, their rebounding got worse when they switched to a small lineup in January. And yes, Patrick Patterson did bully his way into a few of his offensive boards. Size does matter and the Raptors know that they have an advantage inside.

But part of the Nets’ rebounding issue is just a trade-off for being able to force turnovers and keep the initial play out of the paint. The same goes for much of Jonas Valanciunas‘ production (32 points and 32 rebounds through the first two games). When his man hedges hard, he can roll to the basket with only a smaller (help) defender in his way…


Even when the Nets’ big recovers, Valanciunas will be in better rebounding position. But the Nets’ will probably take another double-double from the Raptors’ center if it means keeping Lowry and DeRozan in check.

Still, a lot of Toronto’s offensive boards in Game 2 were the result of defensive breakdowns. There were a few non-screen situations where a Brooklyn perimeter defender needed help from a big, leaving a Toronto big unchecked. There were a few rebounds that just bounced off the Nets’ hands. And on the screens, the quicker the guard can recover back to his man, the quicker the big can recover back to his. These things can be cleaned up.

“You can’t just say that we’re going to defend one way and just give up rebounds,” Deron Williams said Thursday of the Nets’ scheme. “We can’t afford to do that. We have to defend, and part of getting a stop is finishing with a rebound. Until we do that, we’re going to have some problems.”

The Raptors can say the same about turnovers. While some of their miscues can be chalked up to trying to get the pace in their favor or take advantage of Brooklyn’s scheme, there has been some general sloppiness on the Raptors’ part.

Too often, Toronto’s guards have tried to find a lane where there wasn’t one. And too often, their bigs have tried to put the ball on the floor and make plays for themselves. They all sometimes need a reminder to keep it simple, especially when the Nets are aggressively denying passing lanes.

Making shots may be more important, but rebounds and turnovers will play a role in Game 3. The team that cleans up best should have a 2-1 series lead at the end of the night.


  1. jayo says:

    I see this being a pivotal game to the series as well. I actually think the raptors all be less tight on the road and more US against the world mentality they have a great road record and should be able to at least earn a split in Brooklyn. Raptors in seven. Also on a global market the NBA should want a raptors heat second round matchup. Toronto has a huge following worldwide, and the ratings in Canada would be huge.

  2. Ioan says:

    Raptors are a better team but they have less experience … Let’s go Raptors, Nets are too old to matter anymore;)

  3. Haskell says:

    The truth is NO ONE really cares who Miami plays in the second round nor do they care about The Nets and and an over the hill Garnett and Pierce…..bye the way does Garnett really think that his angry face intimidates anyone anymore?…He needs to smile more and enjoy his last three games of his career!

  4. Bruce says:

    Nobody wants to see raptors Miami? Nobody meaning people that don’t know anything about basketball, and who still need to hear old withering names like Garnett and pierce. What people who know anything about anything want to see is a 100+ million roster get destroyed by a non luxury tax team. However i do agree the nba does need to see the nets vs Miami mainly because they have people like you who like to watch basketball 6 weeks of the year!

  5. No_lpogs says:

    No way the Nets could win here….Marked these on the shirt…

  6. S9 says:

    Nets vs Heat will be more exciting to see in the semis i agree,but at this point the playoffs have been so hard and difficult to see anyone coming out with an easy rout series, Nets to pull this one i feel

  7. triggerhappy says:

    Nobody wants to see a Toronto/Miami Round 2
    Nets will Get This One Way or The Other.

  8. ham and cheese says:

    i believe that this will be the deciding game of the series. both raptors or nets fans know that who will win this game wins the series. you heard it here first, people.