Just as in the regular season, Brooklyn will live and die by small ball in the playoffs.
Ever since All-Star center Brook Lopez went down with a season-ending injury in December, the Nets have been rolling out smaller lineups that prize outside shooting over interior dominance. When the shots are falling, that’s quite all right. When they are not, you can end up with what happened on Tuesday night in Toronto.
“It’s basketball. Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don’t,” coach Jason Kidd said after the 100–95 Game Two loss.
That is, of course, the nature of the game. But it is not a basketball truism that your team is supposed to be out-rebounded by 22 boards like the Nets were on Tuesday. The Raptors notched a game-altering 19 offensive rebounds to keep possession after possession alive. If Brooklyn is going to cede that much ground in the paint, it cannot afford to only make shots “sometimes.”
The silver lining in Tuesday’s disappointing result was how similar the contest was to Brooklyn’s victory in Game One. For as poorly as Brooklyn shot — 7 of 24 — from three-point range in Game Two, the Nets were even more putrid — 4 of 24 — from beyond the arc in the first game. And for as devastating as a 22-rebound deficit might seem, the Raptors’ 15-rebound advantage was nearly as lopsided in Game One.
In fact, the Nets have played some of their best basketball this year while getting destroyed on the glass. In March, the team went 12–4 despite averaging seven fewer rebounds per game than their opponents.
But during that March stretch, the team also made 40 percent of the shots they took from three-point land. So far this series, Brooklyn’s players are shooting just 22 percent on threes. It is encouraging that the team was able to eke out a playoff win north of the border under these less-than-ideal circumstances, but at some point the ball must start going in.
Matt Spolar is a nearly 6-foot-1 journalist with a middling high school basketball career who is sure the Nets win thanks to team’s top-tier guards.