By: Anthony Pignatti
Everyone: this is Anthony Pignatti’s first solo post, his first post being our awesome staff trade deadline roundtable. Anthony is here to preview Nets-Blazers and Nets-Nuggets, and has some awesome notes and analysis of Deron Williams’ mini resurgence, and Marcus Thornton. Enjoy!
Preview: Nets at Blazers/Nets at Nuggets
The Brooklyn Nets (26-28) look to inch closer to the .500 mark as they take on the Portland Trail Blazers (39-18) at the Moda Center in Portland tonight at 10:00 pm est, followed by the Denver Nuggets (25-31) at the Pepsi Center at 10:30 est tomorrow. The Nets are coming off a 108-102 victory at the Staples Center against the Lakers on Sunday, while the Trail Blazers are coming off a 100-95 win in Denver against the Nuggets last night.
The Nets enter this game 2-1 on their current West Coast road trip. While their two wins have come against sub-.500 teams in the Jazz and the Lakers, it’s these kinds of wins (road wins at that) that help to establish momentum for tougher opponents like the Trail Blazers and Nuggets. Their lone loss came down to the wire with the Golden State Warriors, one of the top teams in the NBA. It’s remarkable the strides this team has taken prior to the 2014 calendar year when the Nets would find themselves down 25+ to a poor Lakers squad. The Nets look to continue their positive play against Portland and Denver as they battle for playoff position in the East.
This game against Portland as well as the Nuggets game tomorrow are what I like to call “barometer games.” They are games that can give the team, as well as the fans, an idea of how they stack up against the quality caliber teams in this league. Portland is regarded as arguably a top 5 team in the NBA. Their offense is potent, which is evidenced by their offensive rating of 108.6, good for 3rd in the league. They are also the highest scoring team in the league, putting up 107.7 ppg. Also of note, the Blazers rank 5th in the NBA in rebound %. The Nets, well they rank 28th. Thankfully, the Nets will have KG’s services against Portland, who makes the Nets one of the better defenses in the league by himself. LaMarcus Aldridge, who is averaging 23.9 ppg and 11.4 rpg, is expected to miss his fifth straight game due to a strained left groin, which is good news if you’re a Nets fan. Portland is playing in their second of a back-to-back, which bodes well for a Nets squad after having 2 days rest since their last game. With LaMarcus Aldridge likely out and the Trail Blazers coming off a back-to-back, the Nets need to capitalize tonight. Beating Portland in their own building is more realistic than ever.
Players to Watch:
Our trade deadline acquisition from Sacramento looks ready to suit up for the first time as a Brooklyn Net. I’m eager and excited to see what elements he adds to this roster. An added scoring punch off the bench may be just what the Nets need in order to keep up with Portland. He may be on a bad contract (8 mil over the next two years), but this team is in win-now mode. If he can add some scoring off the bench and stretch the defense with his outside shooting, then I congratulate Billy on the move. If he continues to shoot under 40% and doesn’t fit into the offensive schemes, he becomes nothing more than an expiring contract at next year’s trade deadline. Depending on the minutes Kidd gives him, we may quickly find out the type of player we received in this set of back-to-backs.
This is the Deron Williams we have all been waiting for, Nets fans. His pre/post All-Star break numbers are very telling.
It’s only been three games, but his ability to push the ball with some of that old burst was evident throughout the game against the Lakers. He finally looks to be healthy, which not only has affected his ability to push the ball, but his on-ball defense has seen improvement as well. I’ve gathered three clips from the Nets/Lakers game that show transition offense (!!!) and quality defense by DWill.
Deron causing a turnover and bursting passed the Lakers defenders creates an easy look for Joe Johnson.
Deron leads the break as he draws in three Lakers to find an open Mirza for 3.
Strong on-ball defense leads to a steal as DWill holds the ball to wind some clock.
While his 30 point, 7 assist, 6 steal performance was refreshing to see, take it with a grain of salt. The Lakers currently have the 7th worst defensive rating in the league. Deron’s performance against Portland and Denver could very well be a sign of things to come for the rest of this season. I’m interested to see how his body responds in Denver, which can be telling on just how healthy he is. How will Deron respond to his best statistical game of the season against one of the league’s premier young point guards in Damian Lillard? Will Deron’s trend of quality play post All-Star break continue? We’ll soon find out.
Deron Williams Full Highlights 2014.02.23 at Lakers – 30 Pts, 7 Assists, 6 Stls.