The Month in Review - February 2014

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Fleurantin continues his monthly updates, today looking at how the Nets did in February. After a highly successful January, the Nets found themselves on the road a good part of February. How'd they do? Well, it was the best month for defense, among other things. As Brian writes, "It wasn't as good as January, but good enough."

With the early season struggles behind them, the Brooklyn Nets looked to build upon their highly successful January. Along the way, the Nets encountered the All Star Break and a seven game road trip that started in Chicago and ended in Milwaukee.

The numbers

How was February for he Nets? Let's check it out:

Metric

October/November 2013

December 2013 January 2014 February 2014

Record

5-12 5-9 10-3 7-5

Pace

94.87 94.2 91.32 95.94

Offensive Efficiency

99.7 104 106 101.6

Defensive Efficiency

106.6 106.7 103 101.2

Offensive Rebounding percentage

24.9 20.6 22.2 19.7

Turnover rate

15.6 15.3 15.2 15.1

Assist rate

15.8 17 17.5 16.4

Rebound rate

49.2 46.7 48.1 45.4

Free throw rate

33.2 34.1 27.4 31.3

Effective Field Goal percentage

47.5 51.2 52.5 50.1

Opponent Effective Field Goal percentage

50.8 51.5 49.7 49.9

It wasn't as good as January, but good enough. After a disastrous beginning of the season, the Nets defense has begun to settle in. Where they excelled on defense was in forcing turnovers. In February, Brooklyn goaded teams into turnovers 18.6 percent of the team, tops in the Association. This has helped mask a problem that has gotten worse since Brook Lopez went down. The Nets weren't a great rebounding team to begin with, but now they're one of the league's worst. In February, they grabbed only 45.4 percent of the rebounds available to them, third worst in the league trailing lottery teams Philadelphia & Los Angeles. This poses a problem because if they end up playing teams such as Indiana and Chicago in the postseason, Brooklyn's lack of size could prove fatal. They can minimize their rebounding deficiencies by continuing to force turnovers at a high rate.

The offense took a step back in February, and the move to acquire Marcus Thornton should jumpstart them down the stretch. What does he bring to the table? I'll step off and let Reed Wallach explain:

Thornton isn't going to do much to help the Nets defensively when Kevin Garnett comes out, but he can help energize the recently slacking bench. Alan Anderson's production has dropped off as of late, scoring fewer than seven points over his last ten on 39% shooting; Thornton could take some of Anderson's rotational minutes and Jason Kidd could see if he can provide some instant offense. About a quarter of Thornton's offensive plays come on spot-ups, which is much lower than Anderson, who spots up on 43% of his offensive plays. So, Thornton could even give the Nets a more varied offense.

What about the rest of the bunch? Those blowout losses to Portland and Chicago really make things ugly. One player who struggled badly was Mirza Teletovic. After making 42 percent of his three point attempts in January, he only made 30.5 percent in February. He's gonna have to play at the level he did in December and January if the Nets want to make a deep playoff run.

Joe Johnson had a pretty crappy showing during All Star Saturday night, and outside of his big game against Utah, didn't play all that well during the month. He's off to a better start in March and  will be vital for Brooklyn catching Toronto for the Atlantic Division lead.

Best player: Deron Williams

More specifically, after the All-Star Break. At various points throughout the year, I've been extremely frustrated with his play. Tom Lorenzo captured my feelings when he said:

Deron Williams has been the LVP. It's not that he's been the worst player on the team, but when you are the franchise player and most nights you aren't the second, third or sometimes fourth best player on the team, well, then you're doing something wrong. He needs to, especially with Brook Lopez out, be the most valuable player on this team and he hasn't been. He's been, for his stature and salary, pretty bad.

Williams came back from the break reinvigorated and had his best stretch of the season. In those five games, Deron averaged 18.3 points per game on a True Shooting percentage of 58.3 and 4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He only shot 21 percent from three point range during that time frame, but he's a much better shooter from deep than that so no need to worry. He also helped spark the Nets run of forcing turnovers by collecting close to three steals a night.

Worst player: Jason Terry

He got traded to Sacramento in exchange for Marcus Thornton, so I'll use this space to reflect on his time here instead.

Something that I noticed (but didn't put into writing at the time) going into the season as it related to Terry's performance in recent seasons was his declining True Shooting percentage. For five of the last six seasons, he saw his True Shooting percentage take a dip. That continued as Terry shot a career low 36.2 percent from the field. He was expected to provide some backcourt scoring coming off the bench, but could never get into a rhythm with the Nets. It also didn't help that he was committing more turnovers than usual by his standards and wasn't as active on offense.

After the trade to Sacramento, Terry went home to Dallas to further rehab that troublesome knee.. He'll miss the rest of the season and the Kings hope that he will bounce back next season, but he'll be 37 in September and it's just as likely he's played his last game.

Best game: February 12 against Charlotte

With the last game before a long road trip and facing a team that is competing with them for playoff positioning, it was important for the Nets to come away with a win. They were able to do so, and did it in convincing fashion. Most importantly, it was their first win of the year against the 'Cats.

Worst game: February 26 in Portland

In the January review, I wrote:

This is the fifth game of their seven game road trip and Portland will be the best team they see during this stretch.

And what happened? They lost by 44 points. I feel I should repeat that: THEY LOST BY 44 POINTS! Even worse, they lost to a Portland team that had been slumping and did not have All Star LaMarcus Aldridge available.

Key games

  • March 10 vs. Toronto

This is the fourth and final meeting of the season between the two teams that are battling for the Atlantic Division title and the three seed in the Eastern Conference playoff standings. The Raptors lead the season series 2-1 and if they can win this one, they'll have a leg up heading into the stretch run. Both teams will be on the second half of a back to back, but Toronto will be flying in from Minneapolis after playing the Timberwolves on March 9. The Nets will be hosting the Sacramento Kings on the ninth. More on that game soon.

  • March 12 in Miami

Amazingly, the Nets have managed to beat the back-to-back Champions twice this season. Both the games in Brooklyn were nationally televised and went down to the wire, including a double overtime thriller. This is the first time the Nets will be in Miami this season, and the Heat are practically unbeatable at the American Airlines Arena.

Also waiting for them in Miami will be LeBron James. James has had some discomfort wearing his mask after Serge Ibaka broke his nose (& got dunked on at the same damn time), but has still managed to play at an amazingly high level. He's dominated the Nets franchise throughout his career & will be looking to make up for fouling out of the last game between the team's.

  • March 15 in Washington

The Wizards are the team directly in front of the Nets in the standings. As of this writing, they lead the season series 2-0 and are ahead of Brooklyn for the fifth seed in the East. This is the last meeting between the teams unless they face off in the playoffs.

You could make a pretty good case for John Wall being the best point guard in the Eastern Conference. And over the past week and a half, he's gotten even better. Over that time period, he's averaged 22 points and ten assists a game on a true shooting percentage of 62.1. Along the way, he had an amazing performance in the Game of the Year. The Wall-Williams point guard matchup should be incredible.

  • March 26 in Charlotte

Unlike the Wizards, the Bobcats are the team directly behind the Nets in the standings. This is the fourth and final meeting between these teams. Their third meeting will take place the week prior in Brooklyn. I feel this one has more importance because it will decide the season series. The Nets are two games ahead but have the tougher schedule between the teams following this game.

Player to watch: Jason Collins

With the eyes of the world on him, Collins has been doing a good job in his return to the NBA. Even during his first run with the Nets franchise, he was never known as a player that you would give the ball to in the low post and expect steady offensive production.

Around the time Collins joined the Nets, there was a belief floating around that the signing was all about "marketing." Tom Lorenzo did a great job deconstructing that mess and wrote:

Those, like Lawrence, who assume that the Nets are doing this to win the back pages are underestimating Collins, the person, and are simply seeing him as click-bait. Is he gay? Yes. Will his signing be historic? Yes. Will it be a distraction? No. Well, not unless you continue to make it one.

Collins is expected to sign with the team for the remainder of the season soon. So far, he's been helping the Nets. The numbers aren't pretty, but he has missed the past couple of seasons so that was expected. As he gets more comfortable with the Nets, he'll make more of a pronounced impact.

Know the intersections y'all.

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