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PLAYOFFS GAME 4: NETS LOOK TO EVEN SERIES

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NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Philadelphia 76ers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Nets blew it. The didn’t blow a lead, God knows they didn’t have one of those, but they blew what can only be described as a perfect opportunity. There was an outside chance, but a chance nonetheless, that the Nets could have been heading back to Philadelphia with a 3-1 series lead. Instead, they’ll have to fight for their lives in order to even up the series 2-2 after dropping Game 3 to Philly in Brooklyn. I don’t have much more to say as far as an intro goes, but you best believe I have some thoughts on that game and what needs to happen going forward. Let’s get into it.

Where to Follow the Game

My9, TNT, and New York’s Country 94.7 at 3pm, ET. Doors open at 1:30pm.

Injuries

Allen Crabbe (knee) and Ed Davis (BOTH ankles) are out. No word one when or if Davis will return

Joel Embiid (knee) is doubtful

The Game

This is the first time the Nets under Kenny Atkinson have been in the playoffs. It showed. The Nets game plan all season long has been largely predicated on the idea that they will take and subsequently make a lot of three point shots. That’s all fine and good, I understand how basic math works and agree that 3 is worth more than 2. What happened on Thursday night in the Barclays Center was that the Nets went cold. Ice cold. They shot 8-of-39 from three, which amounts to a whopping 20.5 percent. Now, I have long been a vocal supporter of Kenny Atkinson. I think he’s a great coach for this squad and am happy the Nets are in the hands of a coach I trust rather than, oh I don’t know, Lionel Hollins, Avery Johnson, P.J. Carlesimo, Tony Brown, or Jason Kidd. Forgot about Tony Brown, didn’t you? Anyway, I have a couple of complaints about the coaching from that game, and I’m going to air them out here and now so we can all complain together until it’s time for tip-off on Saturday.

It isn’t Kenny’s fault that the Nets couldn’t buy a bucket from downtown all night. Nor was it his fault that Davis has played 16 minutes in Games 2 and 3. The shooting was atrocious. Horrid. Offensive, even. But anyone with at least one eye and a knack for reading body language could tell the Nets were stiff, overthinking every shot, and probably even a little nervous. This was their first playoff game in front of the home crowd! They probably all had friends and family there and the pressure may just have gotten to them. It happens. After about the 18th clunked three-pointer, the Nets should have just attacked the basket on every single possession. I am not exaggerating. Every single one. Caris LeVert was getting anything he wanted down low, especially when Greg Monroe was in, and Dinwiddie and Russell could have also followed suit.

Let’s play a game, it’s called What’s Wrong With This Sentence. Ready? Here it is: Caris LeVert scored 26 points in 27 minutes. Now, you might think that’s a lot of points for the amount of minutes he played. Correct! The problem? PLAY HIM MORE. Actually, PLAY CARIS AND D’ANGELO AND SPENCER MORE. Caris played 27 minutes, DLo played 29, and Spencer played 26. This is the playoffs, and that is unacceptable. Ben Simmons, for example, played 38 minutes and dominated the Nets. Brooklyn is going to need all the points they can get from their three scorers, and playing them all under 30 minutes is just an untenable strategy.

Treveon Graham is averaging 2.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 2.7 fouls per game while shooting 33/0/50 and is somehow, some way, playing 18 minutes per game. I have seen a lot of crazy shit in my time as a Nets fan, as I’m sure we all have. Johan Petro is the name of a real basketball player we all watched. This Treveon Graham situation though is really right up there with the worst of them. It would be one thing if he was like, a trusted and respected rotation player during the season who just needs to find his shot in the playoffs. The reality is that he was easily the worst Net all year, and he was barely playable in February, let alone April. He can do basically nothing other than run around and be a body on defense, and you cannot play a guy like that 18 minutes a game in the playoffs. It’s just not a thing that can happen.

Brooklyn also got outrebounded again, which a healthy Ed Davis could have helped. The Nets really do lack size at the four, and the seasons long complaint is finally rearing its head in the playoffs. Even Greg Monroe was able to grab 13 boards. Greg Monroe, the guy who was on the Nets for about eight minutes before they waived him because he’s terrible. That guy had 13 rebounds against us. The Nets did do a better job on forcing some defensive pressure on the Sixers bigs, drawing three fouls on Monroe and six on Boban, fouling him out. That was big, but not enough to win the game unfortunately.

Defense is still an issue for the Nets in this series, but I don’t think there’s necessarily a fix. I know that might sound fatalist, but it actually presents an opportunity to just go nuts on offense. The Nets are just simply going to have to out-gun the Sixers, and in the case that they don’t shoot 20 percent from three going forward it isn’t impossible. Play the Three Amigos all at least 32 minutes a game, and just set them loose. They should be singularly focused on getting to the basket and drawing fouls, which would then eventually collapse the Sixers defense and open up shots on the perimeter for guys like Joe Harris and DeMarre Carroll. It would also give the Sixers fewer transition opportunities, which would slow their scoring significantly. The Nets just have to leave it all on the court, which is something only a few of them seem to be doing so far. They look frustrated and static. It’s time to bounce back and get some rhythm going.

Player to Watch

JJ Redick scored 26 points and seemingly got open from three at will. He’s made a living off of that skill, and it’s something the Nets are going to have to either slow down, or play such unrelenting offense on him that he just has to sit in favor of someone with more defensive skill. JJ hit 5 of his 9 threes and each one felt like a momentum builder for Philly. If he’s shooting like that, they look unstoppable. It also didn’t hurt that Tobias Harris was 6-for-6 from three, and the more the Sixers hit their perimeter shots the more room Ben Simmons has to work, with or without Embiid.

From The Vault

Play Caris.

Enjoy.