A few notes from game 3:
The Nets deserve a ton of credit from coming out ready to play in game 3. They led 31-16 after 1, and came out guns blazing from the jump. Energy was high, and Brooklyn played like they wanted this one.
THADDEUS YOUNG AND BOJAN BOGDANOVIC
At this point, the Nets know what they will get from Joe Johnson. They know what they will get from Brook Lopez. And solid efforts from those two players, alone, gives the Nets a decent foundation going forward. However, Young and Bogdanovic struggled in games 1 and 2, and it showed in Brooklyn’s performance.
Bogdanovic can be streaky, and his home-road splits indicate a rookie struggling to perform outside the comforting confines of Barclays Center. Young struggled in games 1-2, but was excellent in game 3, as he has been since being acquired. Ball movement helps any player, but especially helps a player like Young, because it creates creases in the interior of the defense. Young is excellent at attacking such creases, but struggles to create his own.
With both players clicking, the Nets still are gigantic underdogs, but at least give the Hawks something to think about.
DEFENSE, DEFENSE, DEFENSE
Lionel Hollins is doing a great job this series. Kyle Korver hit just one shot and struggled all game long, but his struggles were not just a product of cold shooting. Hollins’ gameplan was extremely smart. He required defenders to stay chest to chest with Korver. He had Lopez drop back on pick and rolls. He tried to make the Hawks rely on DeMarre Carroll winning from long range, or Paul Millsap or Al Horford getting theirs off the bounce. That is not how Atlanta wants to play.
The Hawks are talented, and can win playing that way anyway. And surely, Mike Budenholzer will watch the tape and put action in the offense to get guys going. But Lionel has a good plan, and his Nets are executing it.
The series is 2-1, with Atlanta outscoring Brooklyn by just 4 points over 144 minutes. The Nets are in these games.
The Nets face a big issue with the Deron Williams Jarrett Jack dynamic. Deron looked awful today, and has looked awful since Nets-Bucks 13 days ago. He cannot shoot straight: he has not hit a pullup jumper all series, and hit just one shot today, again. He is turning the ball over. He looks to have no confidence, his body looks like a car wreck whenever he hits the ground, and he looks, frankly, unhappy.
Jack’s problems are well documented. He takes too many long 2’s. He does not probe the lane and get guys their looks the way Deron does when he is functioning normally. He makes mental errors defensively. He has been the subject of many people’s ire, including mine.
Still, Jack is passionate. He plays with his heart on his sleeve, with confidence and swagger. He seems to sincerely enjoy teammates having big nights: his friendship with Joe Johnson (they share a late game big shot celebration, often celebrate one another’s late game successes, and share a love for sneakers), and his truly sincere happiness for Markel Brown when he broke through earlier this season, both come to mind.
The Nets streaked when Jack entered the game, and seemed to enjoy his being out there.
Jack is flawed, and those flaws will show more when he plays more. But Deron’s play has to at least plant a seed in Lionel’s mind prompting him to review how he uses his guards: from minutes, to starting and bench roles.
ONE WORD OF CAUTION
Playoff history is littered with so called “gentlemen’s sweeps.” They tend to follow a familiar pattern. The home team (the better team) takes both games at home. Complacent up 2-0, they come out a bit lethargic in game 3, and the series’ road team, down 0-2 and in front of its faithful fans, comes out with a wave of energy to take game 3. The home team, not wanting the series to last forever, loses that good taste, comes out more focused in game 4, and swipes the road game it needs to close in 5.
Today was a great day for the Nets. It is a nice thing to win a playoff game, especially with the trials and tribulations of this season. But Atlanta will come out with much more purpose in game 4. They had the rest of tonight, and all day tomorrow and Monday, to adjust their gameplan and stew over this loss.
I will hope Brooklyn can tie the series Monday, and they surely will try. But they will get a better Atlanta team than the one they got today.