If the Brooklyn Nets plan on making any noise in the playoffs, they better pray to match up against some smaller teams.
The Nets reinforced the trend in a 92-76 loss to the Chicago Bulls. The Nets simply fail when facing dominant frontlines. Even if the opposition plays at a far lesser rate than the Nets, a big power forward and center combo will provide nightmare matchups.
The Nets lost their second straight game to the Bulls by double-digits, but the carnage does not end there. The Nets have lost three games a piece to the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers. While Roy Hibbert and David pose problems for every team, the Pistons struggled so mightily that they fired their coach.
But without Brook Lopez and as currently constructed, the Pistons make mincemeat of the Nets. Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe just pound on a smallish Nets lineup.
When the Nets traded for Paul Pierce, they surely never imagined him playing power forward. Jason Kidd deals with this scenario on a nightly basis.
Without a true star scorer, the Bulls defended and dominated the Nets down low. The Bulls grabbed 18 more rebounds than the Nets and used Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, and Taj Gibson as weapons to pierce the Nets’ armor. Those three big men combined for 45 points of the Bulls’ 92 points.
The Nets’ managed just four offensive rebounds.
Conversely, the Nets play the Miami Heat, the two-time defending champions, extraordinarily tough. The Heat also plays with a small lineup. This case also applies to the Atlanta Hawks.
Against the defending champions and the fifth-seeded Hawks, the Nets boast a 4-0 record. The Hawks are also missing their center while the Heat relies on Chris Bosh as the bruising enforcer.
Even with the trade deadline approaching, the Nets are stuck. They lack the first-round picks or young players desirable in a deal for a big man. The Nets’ best asset is Mason Plumlee, and Billy King would be foolish to trade his only young player. Plumlee is also an athletic center, which proves valuable given Lopez’s frequent foot problems.
The Nets rely on a 19-year veteran as their lone inside presence. Kevin Garnett controls the paint and the defensive assignments, but he needs a minutes restriction to handle the wear and tear of an NBA season on an aging body.
In Garnett’s 25 minutes on the floor, the Nets outscored the Bulls by six points. When Andray Blatche replaced Garnett, the Bulls outscored the Nets by 22 points.
Blatche would rather settle for long jumpers than play in the paint. The same goes for Garnett, which applies a lot of pressure to shooters like Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson.
Garnett can still defend, though. But when a team runs two imposing big men at the Nets, Garnett can only do so much.
The Nets will need to do more, especially if they expect playoff success.