Will the Nets win game 3 and make it a series?

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After the trade deadline, Netsworld was optimistic. Sure, Dorian Finney-Smith was stacking up enough bricks to make homeless shelters obsolete in New York State. And, the play was inconsistent. On the other hand were a couple of impressive wins and Mikal Bridges turning into an offensive monster. Finishing the season strong was almost seen as a given and many fans were preparing for making and winning the 4/5 matchup in the playoffs. It was a nice thought. One I admittedly had myself. There is nothing wrong with being optimistic. Who would argue against more positivity in their life? But, let’s keep it a buck, the statement that the Nets are no worse than the Cavaliers was unrealistic at best, delusional at worst. And now, The Nets are the 6 seed and are in a 2-0 hole against Philly.

Will the Nets win game 3 and make it a series
Mikal Bridges shooting over Joël Embiid

A matter of defense

Let’s be honest. Jacque Vaugh is not a defensive genius. He was the defensive specialist while he was the highest-paid assistant coach in the league. During that time, the Nets couldn’t play defense to save their lives. When he first got the head coaching job, the Nets had a couple of impressive defense-minded wins. “This is who we are now” said an excited coach Vaughn. The Nets were a top defense in the NBA. Well, that lasted two seconds, before the team fell off again and became a bad defensive team as per usual. Then, KD and Kyrie left. The roster changes and everywhere you look you see a 3 and D wing. Defensive specialists. One would think that a head coach who specializes in defense would have the defense humming. Spoiler alert: he didn’t. The Nets have been a mediocre defensive team since the trade deadline.

When I say double, you say wide-open three-point shot

When you face the 3 seed as the 6 seed, you normally are the inferior team. The Philadelphia 76ers have two superstars. A Hall of Fame head coach. A top 10 offense and a top 10 defense, the latter being top 3. They are the best 3-point shooting team in the league and they have multiple Centers and multiple ballhandlers. One could say that the Sixers are exactly what the Nets think they are minus the two superstars. In a situation like that, you have to strategize to somehow get an advantage over your opponent. Make adjustments. The Nets’ strategy boils down to slowing down Joël Embiid and making the others beat you. The former has worked. Embiid is averaging 10 points less per game this series than he did in the regular season. However, the others are beating the Nets. In Game 1 Philly was historic from behind the arc. In Game 2, they reverted to the mean, which is still the highest in the NBA. What the Nets are doing is working, partially, at least. There are still a couple of problems. The 76ers are getting too many wide-open shots. Rotations are late and there are miscues on switches. Philly is too good of a team not to punish that. The question is, is there another way for Brooklyn to combat their opponent?

All in for game 3

In the playoffs certain things are simple. You’re not facing 4 different opponents in one week and you’re not traveling all over the country. You’re not positioning yourself for seeding or worrying about home-court advantage. You have the same players and the same coach to face and the goal is simple. Win 4 games to advance. When down 2-0, game 3 is a must-win. Simple as that. You don’t come back from 3-0. Especially not against a superior team. So tonight, at Barclays Center, the Nets need to push all of their chips to the middle of the table. These chips include Cam Thomas. If the Nets can manage to keep slowing down Embiid, can limit James Harden’s impact and can grab a rebound or two, it will come down to making shots on the offensive end. We can’t afford to have another game like game 2. Coach Vaugh will have to do the right thing. Let’s see if he does.