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The Month in Review - January 2014

it began in January. Blowout after blowout had led many in the fan base (ownership and management, too) to panic. Then, almost magically, the Nets turned it around. Brian Fleurantin takes a look at how the ugliness stopped ... and some key dates in February.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

After a disastrous November and December, things were looking bleak for the Brooklyn Nets. They were 10-21, near the bottom of the Eastern Conference and had the fanbase ready to blow the roster up and try to rebuild. However, the Nets switched up their lineup and had one of the best months in team history. And most importantly they got themselves back into playoff contention and have a decent shot of winning the Atlantic Division.

The numbers

How good was January? Let's take a look:


November 2013

December 2013

January 2014


5-12 5-9 10-3


94.87 94.2 91.32

Offensive Efficiency

99.7 104.5 106

Defensive Efficiency

106.6 106.7 103

Offensive Rebounding percentage

24.9 20.6 22.2

Turnover rate

15.6 15.3 15.2

Assist rate

15.8 17 17.5

Rebound rate

49.2 46.7 48.1

Free throw rate

33.2 34.1 27.4

Effective Field Goal percentage

47.5 51.2 52.5

Opponent Effective Field Goal percentage

50.8 51.5 49.7

The thing that jumps out to me is the team's improvement on defense. At the beginning of the month, the Nets added Shaun Livingston to lineup to help offset the loss of Brook Lopez. Over at the mothership, Mike Prada noted this change and observed:

The biggest jump has been defensively. Brooklyn was brutal on that end early in the year, which you can chalk up to some combination of old players, an absence of shutdown wings, a slow center trying to play an aggressive style and the odd Jason Kidd/Lawrence Frank dynamic. Now, the Nets have found their defensive identity as a team that contains the ball-handler beautifully and uses the length of its help defenders to essentially zone up on the opposite side. It's classic Thibodeauism.

One big improvement for the team on defense was from behind the three point line. In November, teams were shooting close to 41 percent from three point range against Brooklyn. In January, the Nets were much better, allowing teams to shoot only 36 percent from deep. One of the consistent themes for the Nets this season has been communication (or a lack thereof) and it looks like they've solved their problems on defense. Reed Wallach has more on the Nets defense here.

With Lopez gone and Deron Williams gone/not at full strength for most of the month, it's no surprise the Nets didn't get to the basket that often. They were last in the league in attempts inside the restricted area and even worse, they shot only 58 percent in that area. And as you'd expect, they didn't spend that much time at the free throw line. They were last in total free throw attempts and middle of the pack in free throw rate. A good amount of this you can pin on the team's slower pace this month. Going into the year, no one really expected the Nets to play at a really fast pace and their 91 possessions a game this month fit into what most of us expected.

Where the Nets had their best success on offense was on the perimeter. They shot 46.2 percent in the midrange area, good for third best in the league that month. A lot of this can be attributed to the resurgence of Kevin Garnett. Garnett's jumper returned to form this month and he 53.8 percent on his jumpers. Paul Pierce had a good month from the perimeter as well, shooting 53.1 percent from the midrange as well while averaging 14.5 points a game. From three point range, Mirza Teletovic held it down. He built on his solid December and continued the success from deep as he converted on 42.1 percent of his 76 three pointers. It's no wonder why he's much happier compared to last season (and hell, even a few months back).

Best Player: Shaun Livingston

Livingston continued his solid stretch of play and has earned himself a permanent spot in the starting lineup. He usually ended up guarding the opponent's best perimeter player and did a more than respectable job. Offensively, he isn't the best, but he had his fair share of excellent games (see the Golden State and Miami contests). He's off to a fantastic start in February and is proving to be one of the best acquisitions made in the offseason.

Worst Player: N/A

There really wasn't anyone that stood out in a negative sense this month. If you wanted to, I guess you could argue Reggie Evans (a popular thing around these parts), but that's a little unfair because he only played 69 minutes this month.

Best Performance: January 10 vs Miami

This game had it all: a national TV audience, the reigning NBA Champions, and the best player in the league. After the first quarter, some of us (OK, me) thought Joe Johnson was on his way to a fifty point game. He didn't get there, but there were plenty of other other exciting moments. Mirza endeared himself to Net fans by not backing down when LeBron went charging at him after a flagrant foul. There were clutch moments on both sides at the end of the game. And they went to double overtime. With LeBron having fouled out, they outlasted the Heat and won 104-95. They ended up losing to Toronto the next night on the second half of a back-to-back, but that was almost expected.

Worst performance: January 31 vs Oklahoma City

The month had been going so well for the Nets, but it ended in a massive thud. Going into the game, I wrote "If the Nets can keep [Durant] under 30 points, it'll be a successful evening." Yeah, about that. Durant "only" scored 26 points, but that was only because the game was a beat down. Durant had one of the best shooting games of his career and the Thunder beat the Nets by 25 points on national TV. After pulling off the upset at the beginning of the month, the Nets had a terrible showing against the team with the league's best record. Losing to Oklahoma City isn't shameful in and of itself, but losing by 25 at home on national TV after you had three days off is highly frustrating.

Key games

  • February 9 vs. New Orleans
  • You could argue that the Hornets have had worse injury luck than the Nets. All Star point guard Jrue Holliday has been out due to a stress fracture in his right leg. Eric Gordon missed time due to a hip injury. Tyreke Evans has been hounded by an ankle injury since the preseason. And most seriously, ex-Net Ryan Anderson suffered a scary neck injury & has been out ever since.

The reason to watch this contest is Anthony Davis. Davis has been having a solid season and had a great case to make the All Star team in his home city. If he isn't already, he'll be the best big man in the Association by next season in my view.

  • February 13 in Chicago

Quietly, the Bulls had a terrific January as well. They went 11-4 and catapulted back into the playoff standings. The Bulls are looking a lot different compared to their Christmas Day game. Luol Deng is stuck in Cleveland and Toko Shengelia still can't crack the rotation. Most importantly, this is the first night of a seven game road trip that will continue after the All Star Break.

  • February 26 in Portland

This is the fifth game of their seven game road trip and Portland will be the best team they see during this stretch. Portland is third in the Western Conference and only four games behind Oklahoma City in the standings as of this writing. This is also a rematch of the mid November matchup that Portland won 108-98. This game will be taking place after the trading deadline and the Blazers might look different.

Player to watch: Kevin Garnett

To get an idea of how good Garnett's January was, all you have to do is go back and look at his play in November and December. Garnett was struggling massively at the power forward, got burned by Andrea Bargnani and was clowned for his Beats commercial. These days, Garnett is back at the Center and has regained his level of productivity. By the numbers, this is still the worst season of his Hall of Fame career. However, his jumper has returned and the Nets only lost once when he played in January. And as always, his press conferences are fun.