Conventional wisdom would suggest that the Miami Heat is destined to make it back to the NBA Finals for the fourth year in a row. Although it would be premature in most cases to suggest that such a feat is possible given that the conference semi-finals are just underway, the Heat have proven that no matter the opponent that they can handle any situation with poise and unwavering dedication. However, despite the Heat’s dominant pedigree, there is one team that has had this teams number all season long; the Brooklyn Nets. Not only did the ageing Nets sweep the Heat in the four the games in which they competed, they won three out of the four games by a single point. This type of relentless competitiveness and unwavering fervor is the ultimate Achilles heel for a Miami Heat team that is essentially impeccable when it comes to their on the court proficiencies. While the Nets will have to be at their absolute best to win this series, if they can remain as confident and driven as they were when they defeated the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the playoffs, this underappreciated franchise may just have what it takes to pull off a miraculous upset for the ages.
While center Kevin Garnett may be a shadow of the former dominant big man he once was in his prime, his post-season contributions have been vital for this Brooklyn Nets team to compete valiantly. Although Garnett’s shooting percentage during the regular season (44.1%) was lackluster in comparison to his career average of 49.7%, his post season accuracy has never been higher as he has shot 56.4% from the field thus far. Despite the fact that Garnett’s rebounding prowess has been less than stellar in terms of his overall average (5.4 RPG during the post season), when he plays angry and utilizes this immense emotion as a tool to propel his abilities to astronomical levels, he simply can’t be stopped from garnering one well deserved rebound after another (grabbed 11 rebounds and scored 12 point in game seven against the Raptors).
Although the veteran contributions of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have been essential to the Brooklyn Nets mental fortitude and perseverance in elimination scenarios so far, point guard Deron Williams’ scoring capabilities can’t be overlooked either. While Williams may not be the most consistent post-season shooter (41.3% from the field and 29.4% from beyond the perimeter), once he sees the ball go through the hoop a few times, he becomes one of the most dangerous shooters in the game. Even when Williams comes up short as a deadly sniper, his unselfish ball facilitating skills are just as important for the Nets to get ample scoring opportunities on a consistent basis (5.6 APG).
However, even with Williams’ versatility as a reliable point guard, veteran shooting guard Joe Johnson has been the unsung hero for this Nets team that struggled to score consistently throughout the regular season (98.5 PPG, 21st in the NBA). While Johnson’s 15.8 PPG and shooting prowess from the field were impressive (45.4% from the field), his post season contributions have been sensational as he has been lights out from the field (52.3% from the field) and has come up big as the Nets leading scorer so far in the playoffs (21.9 PPG in the post season). While Johnson will have his occasional off night, it’s rare to see this electric shooter get into a scoring slump especially when everything is on the line. Even when his shots don’t go through initially, he never becomes discouraged and continues to take effective shots until one falls through the net. This stone cold mentality is what makes Johnson so dangerous especially if he gets hot early on in a game. Once he hits one big time shot, it’s not uncommon to see his next few shots go in afterwards, which helps the Nets establish a comfortable lead so they can get back to what they do best: play old school oppressive defense.
When all is said and done, the Nets may not have the stamina or sheer endurance of the Miami Heat, but they certainly have the talent and depth to keep the Heat on their toes throughout the duration of this series. Although the Heat have the Advantage in terms of having “the big three”, the Nets have an edge because of their experience and patients when it comes to finding the confident shooter on their squad so they can continually score even when it seems they’re running on empty. While the Nets chances of winning the series may be slim, all they need is a chance to disrupt the Heats seamless chemistry to win valiantly when no else expects them to do so.