Brooklyn hosts Milwaukee before hitting the road

Mike Stobe

"Something needs to be done. Not quite sure what, but something." Tom Lorenzo's final sentence in the latest national TV disaster for the Nets might be the perfect description for Brooklyn's 2013-2014 season.

Facing a hobbled Bulls team at home on Christmas Day, the Nets fell apart in the third quarter (again) and got obliterated on national TV (again), this time to the tune of 95-78. This game might represent Brooklyn's best chance to snap their losing streak. After this game, they go on a three game trip that takes them to Indiana, San Antonio, and Oklahoma City. Happy New Year!

The last home opponent for the Nets in 2013 will be the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks have been the worst team in the league this season, going 6-22 and getting outscored by close to 9 points per 100 possessions. This is a rematch from the game on December 7 that Brooklyn won 90-82.

There is some hope. Andrei Kirilenko told Nets fans on Instagram that he plans to play vs. the Bucks, his first game since November 8.

The season so far

What's the story with these two? Let's check it out:

2013-2014

Brooklyn

Milwaukee

Record

9-19 6-22

Pace

94.61 93.96

Offensive Efficiency

101.9 95.8

Defensive Efficiency

106.3 104.2

Offensive Rebounding percentage

23.3 24.8

Turnover rate

15.7 16.6

Assist rate

16.4 16.1

Rebound rate

48.4 47.3

Free throw rate

33.8 25.9

Effective Field Goal percentage

49.1 46.3

Opponent Effective Field Goal percentage

51 49.7

Nothing is working. The offense has been sputtering all season even though Brook was having a career year. And now that Lopez won't be around the rest of the year, the offense figures to remain in the doldrums. Apparently, Andrei Kirilenko says that he will be returning. If he plays, this will be his first game since November 8 in Washington. The Nets hope that his presence will help improve the defense, which currently ranks third worst in the league. No matter how many times the team talks about the need for effort & communication, they haven't been able to play consistent defense for an extended period of games. Maybe Kirilenko will help in that regard, but that's a lot to put on a player who's been gone for almost two months.

Offensively, Deron Williams will have to carry most of the load. He's coming off a decent game (for what it's worth) against the Bulls on Christmas Day. With Paul Pierce still hindered by his hand injury and Kevin Garnett MIA, Williams will be tasked with generating offense for this team at every turn. He is certainly capable of doing it, but he isn't a player that has shown himself to maintain his efficiency at high usage levels.

On the injury front, Ersan Ilyasova will be gone for a while. He's sidelined due to an ankle injury, and with the way he's been playing this season, the Bucks don't need him. A person the Bucks do need is Larry Sanders and he will be returning for this game. When he's on his game, Sanders is one of the best rim protectors in the league and will snatch up around 10 rebounds a game.

To get an idea of how bad Milwaukee is offensively, consider that it took them two overtimes to barely crack 100 points against one of the league's worst defenses (New York). OJ Mayo is the big name on the team and he hasn't provided as much value to the team as was expected when he signed in the summer. With Sanders out, John Henson has improved his play. He's increased his shooting efficiency & is averaging close to a double double per contest. With Sanders & Henson in the frontcourt, Milwaukee has a good nucleus to build upon. More on that in a moment.

Milwaukee won't be competitive for a while, but it looks like they're on the right path. The Bucks had been trying to compete for the playoffs for the past couple of seasons, and that led to them making short sighted moves (see the J.J. Redick trade from last season). They're now committed to the rebuilding process, & they've got some quality young players with them. I'll step aside & let Brew Hoop's Eric Buenning explain:

As I left the arena after the Bucks pulled out their sixth win of the season (due in large part to the performances of these young players) and began the walk to my car, it began to snow. Though the peaceful precipitation looked beautiful against downtown Milwaukee, it made me a little wary of the upcoming journey. I imagine this is the case for most Bucks fans right now. The thought of adding a high pick indeed looks beautiful, but the unknown space that will be filled with the next handful of months is frightening. Nobody really has a clue how it will all shape out, and all we have the power do now is wait.

Yet, as I thought back to the game that I had just witnessed, who was mostly responsible for that outcome, and what it could possibly mean going forward, I couldn't help but smile. For the first time in quite a few years, everything felt like it was going to be okay. The pieces are slowly starting to come together, and the only direction it feels like this--all of this--can go is up.

With the Bucks expected to have a high pick in what promises to be a loaded draft class, they have some reason for optimism.

Player to watch: Giannis Antetokounmpo

The 19 year old rookie is only averaging 20.9 minutes a game, but he has Bucks fans excited. On a per 36 minute basis, he's averaging 11 points and 7 rebounds on about 49 percent from the field and 70 percent from the free throw line. He has some three point range, but has found most of his success inside the restricted area. There, he's shooting close to 65 percent. Another good sign for Bucks fans is the fact that the team is over 10 points better offensively per 100 possessions & does a much better job handling the ball with him in the game. There are still questions about how he'll continue to develop, but Giannis is off to a good start.

From the Vault

Hop on back to March 2001 and see ex-Net Sam Cassell in a duel against Fred Hoiberg (!!!).


More reading: Brew Hoop

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