Pulse of the NBA
By Andy Roth, Contributing Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - Prior to Game 4 Sunday in Brooklyn, the Nets had scored at least 88 points in their previous 27 home games, but their failure to reach that mark that night cost them the opportunity to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series as the Raptors came away with an 87-79 win.
Since the Nets turned their season around at the start of the new year, they've been a very efficient, high-powered offensive team, but they haven't played up to that level yet in the opening round, which is tied at two wins apiece.
They were especially difficult to defend at home in 2014 as they went 21-4, which included a pair of losses in the final week of the regular season with a lot of the regulars sitting for rest.
At one point, the Nets ran off 15 straight wins at Barclays Center, averaging over 105 points per game while shooting over 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point range.
But we've yet to see that offensive juggernaut in the first four games.
The 3-point shot was a huge weapon for this team during the regular season. They hit nearly 37 percent of their shots from downtown, including an NBA second-best 39 percent at home, but have connected on just 22-of-88 (25 percent) in their playoff series.
In Game 4, their awful shooting from downtown played a huge role in the loss, as they hit 4-of-20 from long range.
Their inability to hit 3-pointers has been a big reason why they're averaging a second-worst 92.5 points per game for the playoffs, after averaging just under 100 points since their regular season turnaround.
With the exception of Joe Johnson, who's hitting nearly 46 percent of his 3- point attempts, all of the Nets' reliable 3-point shooters have been really bad beyond the arc. Deron Williams is shooting 27.3 percent, Paul Pierce 28.6 percent, Mirza Teletovic 21.1 percent and Alan Anderson 14.3 percent, while Marcus Thornton is 0-for-6 and didn't even see the floor on Sunday because of his shooting struggles.
Thornton gave the Nets a big boost after being acquired from the Sacramento Kings in mid-February, as he averaged 12.3 points per game in just under 24 minutes and shot 38 percent from long range.
For Thornton, Anderson and Teletovic, this is their first playoff experience, and they seem to be pressing a bit.
The Nets' bench was a big strength for them, so they need these guys to play better to give themselves the best chance to win the series.
But whichever team emerges as the series winner, its playoff run will likely end in the next round against the two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat.
I know the Nets swept the Heat 4-0 in the regular season, but I don't expect that success to translate here in the playoffs. Very much like the Chicago Bulls had a lot of regular season success against the Heat the past few years in the regular season, but were no match in the playoffs, I think the very same thing will happen with the Nets.
If the Heat face the Raptors, I think that will be even less of a challenge with Toronto having such bad matchups for LeBron James.
All of the Raptors' likely defenders - Terrence Ross (195 pounds), DeMar DeRozan (216 pounds), John Salmons (207 pounds) and Amir Johnson (210 pounds) - will be totally overmatched physically against the 250-pound James.
Have you ever seen a more unimaginative offense than the one Scott Brooks has employed with the Oklahoma City Thunder? All you basically get is heavy doses of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook pounding the ball into the floor, with the rest of the players being spectators. There is very limited ball movement and very little off-the-ball screens to create cuts, open jump shots or cuts to the hoops for some easy baskets. Opposing teams don't have to expend much energy on defense against the Thunder, which gives them fresher legs down the stretch of games, while Durant and Westbrook have to be drained by doing so much offensively.
The additions of Mike Miller and Courtney Lee have made the Memphis Grizzlies a much more dangerous playoff team. The Grizzlies have been lacking 3-point shooters in the past, but now Memphis can make teams pay for double-teaming Marc Gasol or Zach Randolph, and Mike Conley finally has reliable long-distance shooters he can hit off his penetration.
Miller has been huge in the opening round, hitting 50 percent (11-for-22) from downtown, including 5-of-8 last night in the Grizzlies' one-point overtime win which gave them a 3-2 lead in the series.
04/30 14:22:44 ET