With tonight's pivotal Game 4 battle between the Miami Heat and the Brooklyn Nets almost upon us, we figured it's time to trade some questions between The Brooklyn Game, a great source for all things Nets, and Hot Hot Hoops.
Longtime Nets blogger and managing editor Devin Kharpertian was cool enough to not just answer my probing questions but also carve out some space on his blog to post my latest thoughts on what exactly is going on in this Eastern Conference Semifinal series.
1) Did the Nets stray away from what they did to earn the 4-0 regular season series record vs the Heat in the first two games of the series or did the Heat simply outplay them?
More outplaying. The Nets had different rotations in all four games due to injuries and lineup re-imaginations, so you can't key on patterns. Also, three one-point wins and a double-overtime win does not an emphatic sweep make. Game 1 came down to the Nets falling apart in the third quarter as Kevin Garnett made no impact, and Game 2 came down to the Nets falling apart in the fourth quarter as Deron Williams made no impact. The Heat are the more talented team, so it didn't shock me that they took two at home.
2) Because of the Nets depth, does it worry you that some individual players like Deron, Garnett and Pierce have disappeared at times during the series or this something that Brooklyn has dealt with over the course of the regular season?
Both? It's something they've dealt with, but it's also been a problem. It doesn't bother me so much if those guys aren't creating offense for themselves -- Garnett's not an offensive player anymore, and Pierce & Williams can at least create for others if they're getting focused on. If Williams doesn't score because he's finding open teammates off of double-teams, I can live that that. But that also means that they're going to rely heavily on guys like Mirza Teletovic and Andray Blatche to make consistent contributions. Brooklyn's bench was great in Game 3, but there's a reason they're not starters: they're not as good.
3) It seems like the Heat always bring out the best from the Nets. What have other teams done in the past to limit the Nets impressive firepower?
Well, smart teams generally do well. The Nets are best when they're forcing turnovers of all kinds: slapping down on big men who bring the ball low, sneaking in passing lanes, deterring dribble-drives. Offensively, do best when the Nets can't create looks out of touching the paint or swinging the ball side-to-side. So, basically, Game 1.
4) What was your series prediction before it started and what is it now? Do you think Game 3 was a sign that the series is far from over or will they need to do more seeing as how they couldn't miss from long range and that might not be sustainable?
I picked Heat in 5, because I'm a masochist. I thought the Heat would take two at home, split Brooklyn, and win at home in Game 5. So far that's played out, so I'm sticking with it. But hey, weirder things have happened, like the Nets hitting a franchise-record 15 three-pointers against one of the best defenses in the NBA.
5) Game 4 prediction, please. And what are the keys to the Nets defending their home court tonight?
My brain and gut are at odds. My brain says to stick with the prediction I came with, that the Nets will drop Game 4 and head back to Miami facing elimination. But my gut says that Game 3 was too good for Brooklyn to discount it entirely. Even if they shoot a very good 11-25 from 3 and not a franchise-record 15-25, they still win that game. I'll stick with my brain and say the Heat take it. But my prediction is as shoddy as anyone's.