The Miami HEAT will have a few days off as the rest of the NBA's playoff pool continues to bludgeon one another. Among the tightly contested series currently happening, the Brooklyn Nets and Toronto Raptors are in the middle of a hotly contested matchup with a pivotal game 7 tomorrow set to break a 3-3 tie. Miami will face the winner of that series and I decided to take a closer look at a potential matchup with the Nets. Click here to read about the Toronto matchup.
Brooklyn: Joe Johnson, Marcus Thornton,
Miami: Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen
Joe Johnson has had an astounding postseason thus far, shooting an absurd 54% from the field and 44% from 3, averaging 21 points per game. Johnson has been dynamite in the short-range game, shooting an absurd 88% from the shorter 8-12 ft range and nearly 70% near the rim during the playoffs. The former spot mentioned is one of the least efficient zones in the league as that area is often reserved for floaters and runners, which Johnson excels at, but are still shots that rank among the most difficult in the game. The degree at which he's made those shots is in no where near sustainable. Still, he, like the point guards, can post up and distribute as well as use his handle to break down defenders.
Thornton was acquired in a midseason trade for the corpse of Jason Terry and despite having a nice stretch in the regular season, has fallen out of the postseason rotation. Thornton is a streaky shooter who has burned Miami in the past, but is undersized and not much of a defender. I believe this positional battle is a push as it merely depends on who plays better. Futhermore, Johnson has played the small forward position when the Nets switched to a dual point guard lineup, so it remains to be seen if he matches up on Dwyane Wade or LeBron James.
Brooklyn: Paul Pierce, Alan Anderson, Andrei Kirilenko
Brooklyn: Kevin Garnett, Mason Plumlee, Andray Blatche, Mirza Teletovic, Jason Collins
Miami, Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem, Chris Andersen, Greg Oden
There's no point in distinguishing between power forward and center as both teams have eschewed traditional big men roles for the most part. Garnett at times barely resembles an NBA player anymore, but is still the defensive coordinator of his squad and will likely knock down more shots vs. his hated rivals. The athletic Plumlee is a perfect foil for Chris Anderson as he is practically a younger version of Miami's high flyer, taking high percentage shots in the paint and
fouling protecting the rim. Blatche is supremely gifted, but plagued with inconsistency and it remains tough to peg a role for the big man who is defensively challenged and takes some poor shots.
Honestly, I fear Teletovic more than I probably should. The Bosnian sophomore is a sniper from beyond the arc and has burned Miami all through the regular season. He's no one trick pony though, as he is capable of actually scoring some 2 point baskets and defends adequately and smartly enough to not be liability. Miami needs to stick to him like glue. A lot will be needed from Chris Bosh and Chris Andersen in this series and I wonder what role Udonis Haslem could have against a team that loves to go small.
I believe the Nets would serve as a tougher foe because they possess many different perimeter threats who can hit the ill-fated "of course" shots that drives the local fanbase wild. Furthermore, with so many bodies to throw at LeBron, he would have to be at his A game for most of the series.
Despite an 0-4 record, Miami has yet to play Brooklyn at peak strength and focus so I would still expect Miami to win the series, but if you've enjoyed Miami's week off while observing other fanbases sweat the early rounds of the playoffs, I would think Toronto would be an easier matchup. Disagree? Feel free to leave a comment below.