The Month in Review - March 2014

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Fleurantin continues his monthly reviews, this time, it's all about the March to the playoffs. A 12-4 record, bolstered by a perfect month at Barclays Center, got the Nets into the playoffs for the second time in two years.

After a disastrous start to the season, the Brooklyn Nets used an amazing January and good enough February to catapult themselves back into playoff contention. No one knew it at the time, but Kevin Garnett's back spasms would lead to him missing the entire month.

The numbers

Let's see what happened in March:

2013-2014

October/November 2013

December 2013

January 2014

February 2014

March 2014

Record

5-12 5-9 10-3 7-5 12-4

Pace

94.87 94.2 91.32 95.94 92.78

Offensive Efficiency

99.7 104 106 101.6 110.2

Defensive Efficiency

106.6 106.7 103 101.2 102.4

Offensive Rebounding percentage

24.9 20.6 22.2 19.7 21

Turnover rate

15,6 15.3 15.2 15.1 14.6

Assist rate

15.8 17 17.5 16.4 17.2

Rebound rate

49.2 46.7 48.1 45.4 45.5

Free throw rate

33.3 34.1 27.4 31.3 31.9

Effective Field Goal percentage

47.5 51.2 52.5 50.1 54.6

Opponent Effective Field Goal percentage

50.8 51.5 49.7 49.9 50

The fact that the Nets were able to win 12 games against some tough competition without Kevin Garnett playing for the entire month is very impressive. After their struggles to begin the season, it seemed as if the Nets would be dispatched quickly in the first round if they even made it in. Now, we can make a good case for the Nets advancing deep into the playoffs. It's a far cry from the beginning of the season where we thought the Nets had a decent chance of winning the Eastern Conference, but you'll take what you have now if you're the Nets and their fans.

The Nets were already a poor rebounding team, and that trend continued with Garnett missing in action. Brooklyn only collected 45.5 percent of the available rebounds on the floor, second worst in the league. Fortunately for Brooklyn, they made up for this deficiency by forcing turnovers at a very high rate. The Nets got teams to cough it up 18 times per 100 possessions, highest in the league. Lack of size will be an issue for Brooklyn if they face Chicago (or Indiana if the Nets get out of the first round), but they can work around that if they can continue to force turnovers at a high rate.

Brooklyn's three point shooting really buoyed their offensive attack in March. Thanks to Marcus Thornton, Paul Pierce, Mirza Teletovic and others, the Nets shot 40.4 percent from downtown, fourth highest in the Association. Pierce only averaged 26 minutes, but he still played great for Brooklyn and will see a lot more playing time once the playoffs begin. Deron Williams only averaged 5.7 assists a game in March, but he did shoot 46 percent from the floor and split ballhandling duties with Livingston.

Mason Plumlee and Shaun Livingston deserve special mention. With Garnett out, Plumlee slid into his spot in the starting lineup and did a very good job. He only averaged 21.2 minutes in March, but he picked up seven points and six rebounds a game during that time span. He commits too many fouls, but he is progressing nicely as a defender and his athleticism would be very beneficial for the Nets if they face the Raptors in the postseason. When Brook Lopez returns next season, the Nets will face dilemma when deciding how to divide minutes between Lopez, Garnett, Andray Blatche and Plumlee. As for Livingston, he's continued his success from earlier this season and has set career highs in multiple categories. How good has he been? Back when we had our roundtable discussion at the All Star Break, Net Income and Reed Wallach named Livingston as the first half MVP. Here's why:

With the exception of a week or so, Livingston has been the team's most consistent player. He has played well with or without Deron Williams on the court. He can't shoot but all his other skills have been on display. He was Kidd's choice and he has justified it.

and Reed:

The guy who has kept the Nets afloat, though, is Shaun Livingston. Livingston has been the Nets top facilitator this season and has had the task of guarding top-flight wings such as Paul George and Kevin Durant. Livingston has played so well that he has played his way into a starting role and is a matchup nightmare for small point guards.

Best performance: March 12 in Miami

This is an easy selection. The Nets franchise had lost 13 straight games to Miami coming into this season. the Nets won the first two games, but they took place in Brooklyn. However, this game took place in Miami and the Heat rarely lose at home. The game was hard fought, closely contested, very intense and came down to the final possession. Shaun Livingston was able to disrupt Miami's final play and the Nets came away with a 96-95 win. Next to the triple overtime thriller between Washington and Toronto from late February, this is a contender for regular season game of the year.

Worst performance: March 24 in New Orleans

After winning an overtime game in Dallas the night before, the Nets ran out to a big lead against the Pelicans. Unfortunately for Brooklyn, they ran out of gas in the second half and ultimately lost in overtime. Making matters worse for Brooklyn was the team in front of them, the Chicago Bulls, getting the win over Indiana. It's tough to criticize the Nets too much especially considering that they played in overtime the evening before, but this was still a game that they should have won.

Best player: Joe Johnson

Johnson had his best month of the season. In 16 games, Johnson averaged 17.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 32.5 minutes a night. He also had a true shooting percentage of 61.2, thanks in large part to making 44 percent of his three point attempts. He even won "Player of the Week" honors.

Worst player: N/A

Nobody really stood out in a negative sense, so nobody gets "honored" here.

Highlight of the month

Naturally, we're headed back to Brooklyn's best win of the season. Check out Paul Pierce in action against the back-to-back NBA Champions:


Key games

  • April 19 - ?

The playoffs begin on Saturday the 19th and it looks as if Brooklyn will end up with the number five seed. This means that they'll either face Toronto or Chicago in he first round. The Nets lost the season series to Chicago 2-1 and split with the Raptors. Much, much more on this when the season ends.

Player to watch: Joe Johnson

Johnson has been having a great second half of the season, but the memories of his Game Seven performance against the Bulls last season still lingers. Although he was injured and bailed the Nets out twice in Game Four (before they ultimately lost), his Game Seven performance brought back memories of his past playoff failures with the Hawks. For his career, Johnson has a lower true shooting percentage, PER, win shares per 48 minutes, and points per game in the playoffs as compared to the regular season despite using the same amount of possessions. He's completely healthy going into this postseason and with defenses getting tougher, Johnson can use his size to gain the advantage in the low post. One of the big issues for the Nets last postseason was their poor spacing, and with a new and improved lineup, he'll have better scoring opportunities and more room to operate this time around.

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