By Todd Singer @breakingbadfish on April 14, 2014
Later this week, the Brooklyn Nets will be entering the playoffs for the second consecutive season, looking to make some more noise than they did last year. Even though they had home-court advantage in their first-round series with Chicago last season, the Nets lost an embarrassing Game 7 to a depleted Bulls team, and they'll look to erase last year's bad memories in the first round this year. Here are five ways that they can guarantee victory.
The Nets are one of the better teams getting to the charity stripe as they finished in the top 10 in free throw attempts per game. However, once they're at the line, it becomes a different story. Brooklyn finished a disappointing 19th in free throw percentage and with the nip and tuck nature of the NBA playoffs, every point is going to be vital. If the Nets can improve their FT shooting, it'd go a long way towards a win in round one.
The Nets' turnover differential is top 10 in the NBA and is one of the key things that has propelled their second-half surge. While Brooklyn doesn't turn the ball over all that much (tied for 11th), they're prone to get sloppy with the ball at times, something they have to limit in the playoffs. Where this is especially true is late in games where they've had some crucial turnovers cost them games, it can't continue if they are to win a round.
The Nets' defense has buoyed their improved play since January and is perhaps the primary reason for the team's surprising turnaround. After an abysmal start to the season on the defensive end, the Brooklyn defense has been so good that the team finished near the top of the league in both turnover differential and opponents points per game. The Nets need to make sure they take care of the perimeter as well as the inside to guarantee a victory.
The Nets are a very prolific 3-point shooting team, finishing 10th in 3-point attempts per game and 11th in team 3-point percentage. However, despite those stats, there have been quite a few games where the threes simply aren't falling and if that happens in the playoffs, the Nets need to realize that and take the ball to the rim. Brooklyn can fall in love with the 3-pointer, but they need to diversify the offense to win a round.
Perhaps the Nets' biggest Achilles' heel has been keeping opponents off the offensive glass. As a result of going to the small-ball lineup that has proved to be effective, Brooklyn has been routinely outrebounded and outmuscled by bigger teams. While that hasn't been as detrimental as some may think given their second-half record, it's never wise to give the opponents more opportunities. The Nets need to control the boards to move on.
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