What We Learned from the First Quarter of the Brooklyn Nets' Season
The first quarter of the Brooklyn Nets' season has been an interesting ride to say the least.The team started off the year on an 11-4 run, but they have since seen that impressive record fade away.
The team is currently in second place (11-8) in the Atlantic division of the Eastern Conference, and they trail their archenemy New York Knicks by three and half games.
Brooklyn has played better at home than on the road this season, and they are beating the teams that they are supposed to be beating. The Nets are 7-1 against teams that have records below .500, but they are only 4-7 against teams that are at or below .500.
It will be interesting to see how the remaining three quarters of the season play out for the Nets, and with that, here is what we have learned from the team's first quarter of action.
Brook Lopez Is Key to the Nets' Success
Brooklyn Nets coach Avery Johnson confessed on Sunday to ESPNNewYork.com's Mike Mazzeo that the team would not rush Brook Lopez back into the lineup because he has been healing slower than expected.
The Nets have been playing without their center over the past five games because of a foot injury, and it is obvious that they miss their big man's presence. Brooklyn is 1-4 over the course of Lopez's absence, even though they have been receiving some consistent play from Andre Blatche during that stretch.
One of the main reasons that the Nets are hurting without Lopez is the fact that he is the team's leading scorer with 18.5 points per game. It is also evident that the center has improved on the defensive side of the ball as well, with his grandest refinement coming on pick-and-roll plays.
One area where Lopez is still weak, however, is in the rebounding portion of his game. The big man is averaging just 6.8 rebounds per game, which has him ranked 47th among all NBA players that qualify.
Despite his poor rebounding abilities, few teams in the NBA have a player with the type of skill set that Lopez possesses, making him a valuable commodity. The Nets will be a big-time contender if the big man can return to the form he was playing at before the injury and improve in the rebounding department.
Defense Is Their Strength
The Nets have been playing some sluggish defense over the past few games, but the team was still able to end the first quarter of their season in the top five in overall defense. Brooklyn has allowed just 93.6 points per contest, giving up 100 or more points only eight times this season.
The Nets have to get back to their defensive ways because, quite frankly, their offense has disappointed. Brooklyn only scores 96.6 points per game, which has them as the 19th-best offense in the NBA. That type of scoring will not get it done when the Nets play teams like Miami and New York.
Time Will Be Deron Williams and Company's Best Friend
To put it simply, Deron Williams has struggled this season, and there are certainly no ifs, ands or buts about it. The point guard has witnessed a drop in almost all major statistical categories, and there is certainly some cause for concern in Brooklyn because of it.
Two of the main reasons why Williams is struggling this season (and overall in New Jersey/Brooklyn compared to Utah) are the multiple injuries he has accumulated and the system being run in Brooklyn. Williams is at his best when running the pick-and-roll, and the Nets just don't have a player with access to that offensive attribute on a consistent basis.
Williams also has to try to get fellow All-Star Joe Johnson more involved in the screen game and in the offense in general. Johnson has proven that he has the ability to take over games, and it is about time that the Nets allow him to do so.
The Nets Will Be Contenders in the East All Year Long
While the Nets have experienced their fair share of struggles this season, so has every other NBA franchise.
The biggest question mark for this team heading into the second leg of the season is: can they win close games against quality opponents? If the answer to that question is yes more times than it is no, then this team will be just fine.
Ultimately, it is going to take time for this team to jell together just like it took the Miami Heat a few years ago. And once they do, be careful Eastern Conference, because this team will be a force to be reckoned with.