The Brooklyn Nets are a group of marked men.
Along with their new look has come lowered expectations and a target from teams trying to cruise through the first round of the playoffs, namely the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“Multiple people I’ve spoken to recently are privately hoping for a Brooklyn matchup,” reports Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com noting. “It’s easy to understand why. Even though the Cavs, with home-court advantage, would likely be capable of competing — and possibly winning — a seven-game series against any of the teams currently behind them in the standings, the Nets would be Cleveland’s easiest path out of round one.”
Brooklyn was once seen as a title favorite earlier this season but their fall to potential first-round fodder is not unfounded. Losing a pair of players the caliber of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving is almost impossible to overcome.
Without them, the Nets have focused on their defense to keep them in games.
Jacque Vaughn applauds the Nets for shrinking the floor and playing together on defense.#NETSonYES pic.twitter.com/f3EglJTCBX
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) March 8, 2023
“While the Nets haven’t completely imploded since those two megadeals, their organizational ceiling has lowered considerably, and they no longer pose the same challenge in a seven-game series,” explains Fedor. “The Nets are 7-11 over the last month-plus without those two superstars. They also have the most inexperienced coach of the potential first-round foes.”
All of this amounts to a bullseye for the Cavaliers, but almost surely for the teams sitting in the Play-In Tournament given the Nets’ two-game slide. They are just 1.5 games ahead of the seven-seed and have one more matchup versus the Miami Heat who currently occupy the slot.
Interestingly enough, the Nets are 1-0 versus the Cavs this season with two more matchups to go and that one victory coming with Durant and Irving scoring 32 points apiece.
Jacque Vaughn’s Challenge to Nets
Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn spoke on adding another challenge ramping up his starter’s minutes down the stretch in preparation for playoff basketball.
“That’s what playoff basketball is about,’’ Vaughn said via the YES Network’s YouTube channel on March 14. “You’re going to have to play every other day, and you’re going to play high minutes. Can you get a win? …read more