We learned some things about the New Jersey Nets last week.
It is painfully obvious that, as of right now, they cannot win on the road. Until proven otherwise, we may as well just chalk up a loss for them whenever they have an away game on the schedule.
At the same time, we now know they do know how to win at home. They showed the ability to come back from significant deficits and close out games last week, which was a continuation from the previous seven days in that regard.
A few players have really stepped up their games as well, and there are some notable statistical improvements.
We'll dive into all of that right after this quick recap of the week:
The Nets were 2-2 on the week, are 14-34 on the season and have moved up in both the division and conference standings. They are now in fourth place of the Atlantic Division and sit at 12th overall in the Eastern Conference.
One thing the Nets need to avoid is falling behind early. They were able to overcome slow starts at home last week, but on the road it was a different story.
New Jersey is now .500 at home while coming in at 3-23 away from the Prudential Center.
It's good to be able to hold down your home court, but at some point they need to win some games on the road. That being said, they've played a number of very close away games this year and just need to find a way to break through when they are the visiting team.
It might be something that takes until next year to happen, although the experience they're gaining this season should help them in the long run.
The game in Indiana throws off the weekly statistics quite a bit.
New Jersey gave up a season-high 124 points in that game. It was a mixture of lackluster defense and a team that could not miss. Even when left open for long stretches of games, teams don't normally hit 63 percent of their shots as the Pacers did.
That game is more of a statistical anomaly than anything. All it really shows is that New Jersey is not a good road team, which we already knew.
When taking that game out of the equation, the Nets were pretty much right around their season averages in most categories.
They hit shots at about the same rate they have all season, and the same goes for total points scored and points allowed.
Two areas where the Nets have drastically improved recently are assists and turnovers.
Even including the Indiana game, New Jersey averaged nearly three less giveaways than they have all year and their assists are way up, from a season average of 19.5 a game to 23 APG last week.
The main reason for this is the play of Devin Harris, and there will be more on him shortly. Jordan Farmar, who missed two games last week, is also proving to be far more valuable to this team than anyone would have thought at the beginning of the year.
The bench could not do anything with Farmar out and I will look more deeply into that topic in the next day or two.
I also owe an apology to the Nets and those who read these articles for providing some misinformation.
I've been saying all year that the team needs to dramatically improve its offensive rebounding, but the statistics do not back that up.
A lack of getting after it on the boards has certainly cost this team some games, but they've actually been quite good in preventing their opponents from grabbing those killer offensive rebounds.
For the year, the Nets are giving up an average of 10.2 offensive rebounds per game, which is good for sixth in the league—indicating it's not as big of a problem as I have been making it out to be.
Maybe it's just the feel of those offensive boards they give up when they come at inopportune times. It seems like a majority of them happen when the team is either trying to fight back in a game or when they're attempting to hold a lead.
Doesn't it seem like 10 is still too much though? No matter where they rank statistically? That's 10 second-chance opportunities for opponents a game, which could result in a total of 20 or more extra points.
Maybe it just seems as though NBA teams should be able to gobble up more of these loose balls. These are the best players in the world we're talking about after all.
Either way, I apologize for providing some misleading observations.
As mentioned a little earlier, Devin Harris had a good week and is the main reason for New Jersey's sudden increase in assists.
Harris averaged 11 APG last week while only turning the ball over twice a game. That's nearly a six-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio, which is excellent. He needs to find the range on his shot (he hit only 35 percent of his attempts last week), but 12 PPG is not a bad number for him considering the other plays he's making.
The point guard is also getting to the free throw line at a good rate, which is important for him as well as the team in general.
Brook Lopez is currently scoring at an elite level, as his play on the offensive end has spiked since coach Avery Johnson sent him to the bench during the fourth quarter in Phoenix a few weeks ago.
For as much heat as Johnson has taken in his coaching career for his people skills and player relations, it seems he knew exactly what needed to happen with Lopez.
Last week, New Jersey's center hit 52 percent of his shots and averaged 25 PPG. Like Harris, Lopez is getting to the line early and often, averaging six free throw attempts a game last week. While he desperately needs to get better with his rebounds (five RPG last week), the way he is scoring makes it hard to be overly critical of his performance in that area of the game.
Lopez also hit the game-winning shot with just over one second left against Cleveland—a big step in his development.
Anthony Morrow has been a spark for the team since his return from a hamstring injury, and last week he averaged 15 PPG on 54 percent shooting while also hitting 47 percent of his three-point attempts.
Morrow is currently coming off the bench. The second unit has been playing so well lately that Johnson has been reluctant to move Morrow into the starting lineup. It seems only a matter of time before he will be forced to do so, however, as Stephen Graham is nowhere near a starting caliber player.
There is some cause for concern with the play of Kris Humphries and Sasha Vujacic.
It has been well documented how well Humphries has played this year, but it's starting to look as if he's declining.
Humphries scored only seven PPG last week and was just 9-for-27 (33 percent) from the field. His rebounding numbers also went down from his season average of 9.3 RPG to eight RPG.
With how hard he works and the desire he's shown to improve, it could be nothing at all, but could also be something we need to look out for. Regardless, his hustle, hard play and willingness to contribute in whatever capacity he can are always appreciated.
Vujacic is another story.
He's a shooter who is currently not hitting his shots. He was under 40 percent on his shot attempts last week and it's starting to look as though the production he showed when he first came to the team was a fluke.
At a game I went to recently a fan sitting nearby labeled Vujacic as "a chucker"—a player who throws up shots whenever he touches the ball. The observation seems to be spot on, although he does appear to be trying to improve in setting up his teammates.
On the bright side, he hit 47 percent of his three-point attempts last week, so all hope is not gone. The team may still be better off letting him walk as a free agent after the season.
New Jersey has four games on the schedule this week and are playing only one team with a winning record.
Being that three of the games will be played at The Rock, a 2-2 or 3-1 week should be expected.
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