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The Month in Review - October & November 2014

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Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

After a tumultuous off-season that saw the team change head coaches (again), rumors surrounding ownership and whether they would sell the team, and some tweaks of the roster, the Brooklyn Nets came into the 2014-2015 season hoping to make the playoffs for the third consecutive season.

The numbers

How'd the first portion of the season go? Let's check it out:

2014-2015 Season

October/November

Record

6-9

Pace

95.15

Offensive Efficiency

102.4

Defensive Efficiency

102.2

Assist Rate

15.8

Turnover Rate

15.2

Offensive Rebounding Rate

24.1

Rebounding Rate

49

Free Throw Rate

27.2

Effective Field Goal Percentage

49.3

Opponent's Effective Field Goal Percentage

49

One of the things that has remained consistent for the Nets franchise is their inability to play well in third quarters. It's been a problem for years and continued in November. In November, the Nets were outscored by 10.7 points per 100 possessions, sixth worst in the league.The inability to make adjustments following the half is worrisome and something that needs to be worked on as the season progresses.

The main storyline that engulfed the team was Joe Johnson and his critical comments. After a win against Orlando, Joe Johnson called out his team and made mention of the weak level of opponents they played. As it so happens, the team went on a five game losing streak immediately after and only won two more times the rest of the month. They also played five games against teams that were .500 and above, and they lost all five. The stuff about his teammates was small stuff was relatively inconsequential, but the point about not beating good teams was valid. You'll take every win you can get of course, but it is concerning that the Nets haven't been able to consistently beat the good teams.

He started a bit later than expected, but Brook Lopez was able to return from his foot injury he suffered last season. There were some bright moments, but he didn't have the greatest return. Although he shot 50 percent from the field and averaged 15 points and five rebounds in 28 minutes a night, he found himself on the receiving end of criticism from Lionel Hollins and on the bench late in games. We all knew the adjustment would take a while for Lopez, so it wasn't surprising to see Lopez wasn't on his game. He's currently out with a back injury and that might slow him down some when he gets back. It's hard to really make a big impact when injuries throw you off as you try to get in a rhythm.

Best performance: November 3 vs. Oklahoma City

Coming into the season, this looked to be a marquee matchup that would serve as a great challenge for Brooklyn. The Thunder have been one of the league's best teams in recent seasons and have won the Northwest Division the last four seasons. Unfortunately, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook missed the game due to injury. Even still, the Nets did not fall into a trap and had their most dominant performance in November. When you're a fringe playoff contender, you need to take advantage of every opportunity that's available and Brooklyn did just that.

Worst performance: November 30 vs. Chicago

The most important thing from Johnson's commentary after the Orlando game was the poor competition Brooklyn had faced. Since that day, the Nets have faced seven teams that were .500 and above. and have lost all seven. Their most recent effort was probably the worst of all. The Nets had been off since Wednesday and did not have to travel far from their last game (Thanksgiving Eve in Philadelphia). The Bulls were on the last stop of a seven game trip and played in Boston on Friday afternoon. Every bad habit that has plagued the Nets in recent seasons showed itself in this game and throughout the month. Poor third quarter? Check. Key players underachieving? Check. Frustrated home fans? Check. It was the finale of a pretty disappointing month that had fans questioning whether the Nets were actually improved from last season.

Best player: Deron Williams

Williams' tenure with the Nets has been marked by frustrating inconsistency. For the SB Nation NBA preview, I wrote:

This is perhaps the most important season of Williams' career. He's taken tons of criticism and has seen his stock in basketball circles plummet. He's no longer seen as the best point guard in the league and is just an afterthought in those conversations these days.

And what did he do in October and November? In 15 games, Williams averaged 17.8 points, 6.4 assists and three turnovers in 37 minutes a night. He even won "Player of the Week" honors in November.  Deron has been a steadying force for a team that has been dealing with injuries and under-performance.

Worst player: Andrei Kirilenko

After a disappointing debut season in Brooklyn, Kirilenko rededicated himself to his game in the offseason and began training earlier. Hollins' offense was very similar to what Kirilenko played under in Utah and was expected to be a solid contributor. Unfortunately for him, he wasn't able to fit into Hollins' plans and hasn't played since November 13. It's a bit unfair to label him as the "worst" because he never really had the opportunity to show what he can do under Hollins' system.

Highlight of the month

Head back to November seventh and watch Deron against the Knicks.

Key games

  • December 13 at Charlotte

This is the second night of a back-to-back (Night one at home against Philadelphia) for Brooklyn. Coming into the season, the Hornets were thought to be a team on the rise. They had a good 2013-2014 season and made solid acquisitions throughout the offseason. Unfortunately for Hornets fans, the team has gotten off to a disastrous start. The team is currently 3-14, but they still have a chance to make the playoffs if they turn it around. One of the main problems for Charlotte has been the poor play of Lance Stephenson. He was a borderline All Star player for the Pacers last season and one of the only people that put up a fight in the playoffs. When asked about his struggles, coach Steve Clifford said:

To be fair, one of the things that's made it more difficult for him is that he came here and people proclaimed him as the next superstar. He's not a star. He's a guy that has talent to become a star. To be a star in this league, you have to do it over years."

  • December 17 at Toronto

Brooklyn will make their first appearance in Toronto since defeating the Raptors in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals last season. The Raptors have been off to the best start in franchise history, but a groin injury will have DeMar DeRozan sidelined for this matchup. Even without DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas and the other Raptors will pose trouble for the Nets. As of this writing, the Nets are eight games behind the Raptors and while it's still early in the season, it's highly unlikely the Nets catch them for the division lead.

  • December 19h at Cleveland

This is the second time this month the Nets will play the Cavs this month. Cleveland beat the Nets by 22 on December 7th and the Nets will be looking for some payback. The Cavaliers have turned things around and are steadily climbing the standings in the Eastern Conference. Brooklyn hopes to have Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez back.

  • December 30 at Chicago

This is the last game of 2014 for the Nets, and if recent history is any indication, it might get ugly for the Nets. The Nets have been blown out the last two years in the New Year's game. This is also the third meeting between these teams. With the addition of Pau Gasol and the presence of Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose, and Jimmy Butler, this is the best Bulls team since the one that made the Eastern Conference in 2011. If everyone can make it to late April in one piece, the Bulls will pose the greatest threat to LeBron as he tries to reach the Finals for the fifth consecutive season. Should the Nets make the playoffs, there's a very good chance they run into the Bulls in the first round.

Player to watch: Deron Williams

As Williams goes, so go the Nets. He's fully healthy for the first time in a while and has played relatively well. For the Nets to get back on track, they're going to need Deron to play at an even higher level. With Lopez dealing with a back injury (and those are always tricky), Deron will take on even more of the offensive responsibility. He's been most effective when he gets into his offense early and can post up smaller point guards. He hasn't been saddled with any injuries yet, and the Nets will need that to continue if they want to challenge for a playoff spot.