While the Brooklyn Nets have cooled off a bit since their blistering run that followed the firing of its head coach in December, they remain in the hunt for a high-seed come playoff time thanks in large part the continued high production from its “core four.”
All-Star Brook Lopez, front-court running mate Gerald Wallace and the backcourt duo of Deron Williams and Joe Johnson have lifted the Nets (28-19) to the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference through Monday. This week they have a trio of games on the docket, starting with the Los Angeles Lakers at home Tuesday followed by road games against the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday and the Washington Wizards on Saturday.
As you consider your NBA predictions for the week, the success of the Nets has largely been predicated on the defensive end. Brooklyn ranks fifth in the NBA in points allowed at just 94.5 points but, curiously, opponents have been able to shoot a very high percentage from the field, including beyond the three-point line.
The reason for the Nets’ success has been its dominance on the defensive glass. Lopez and Wallace have proven themselves as rugged as it comes on the boards, especially the latter. Wallace is proving to be indispensable for the Nets, as he is the “high-energy, do-whatever-it-take-to-win” type that is needed on any successful NBA team.
Lopez, the Nets leading scorer at 18.7 points a game, was recently rewarded for his stellar first-half of by being named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team. He is shooting 52.2 percent from the field, an excellent mark, and is also averaging 2.2 blocks a game, which is good for seventh in the NBA.
Williams, an All-Star the three previous seasons, has regained that form at the point guard position under interim coach P.J. Carlesimo. After struggling the first two months under former coach Avery Johnson, Williams has played much better while bumping his numbers to 16.8 points a game with 7.7 assists and 3.2 rebounds.
Johnson, a six-time All-Star while a member of the Atlanta Hawks, has helped stretch the floor as a consistent perimeter sniper for the Nets. He has scored double-digit points in all but three of the 42 games he’s played this season while averaging 17 points a game.