Up 2-1 in their series against the Toronto Raptors, the Brooklyn Nets don’t have a whole lot to complain about. There is, however, one specific thing that needs to change as the series continues to progress.
Marcus Thornton, who was a spark plug off Brooklyn’s bench since being acquired on Feb. 19, must return to his old self.
With a total of only seven points over the first three games in this opening round, Thornton has been essentially non-existent. No, the Nets aren’t in desperate need of anywhere near some 20-plus-point performances out of Thornton, which he is more than capable of on any given night, but something closer to his season average of 9.8 points per game would take a lot of pressure off the rest of the Nets.
After winning two of the first three contests, Brooklyn would likely be able to advance with Thornton continuing to struggle the way he has, but getting him going is still extremely significant because of how it would relate to the second round, which the Nets expect to be playing in.
In all likelihood, if Brooklyn makes it past the Raptors, they would match up against the Miami Heat in the semifinals. And when it comes to beating the Heat four times, which only one team has done in the Big Three era – the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals – a complete team effort is the only way to even have a chance at getting it done. Thornton’s confidence entering a matchup with the Heat would be crucial to Brooklyn’s success.
Nets coach Jason Kidd is as aware of this as anyone else is. In order to get Thornton playing to his potential, his best bet would be to draw up a few extra plays for him in Games 4 and 5, and beyond that if necessary.
After all, Kidd knows as well as anyone else what kind of difference-maker Thornton can be when playing well.