The Brooklyn Nets are in the drivers seat with a 2-1 lead against the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the NBA playoffs, but according to Paul Pierce, they have taken the series lead despite the fact that they have not played their best basketball.
“Well we know we haven’t played our best game yet,” Pierce said at shootaround on Sunday. “So being on our homecourt, we know we gotta protect our homecourt. I just got a feeling that our best game has yet to come. After three games, we know what they’re doing and they know what we’re doing, so it’s time for us to have a breakout game, and I think (Game 4) is gonna be it.”
While the Nets might not have played their best, they’re doing pretty well. Deron Williams has averaged 20.0 points and 5.2 assists per 36 minutes with a true shooting percentage of 53.6, Pierce is down slightly to 15.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per 36 minutes with a 52.2 true shooting percentage and Kevin Garnett is up to 13.1 points with 10.5 rebounds per 36 minutes and a 54.3 TS%.
Joe Johnson has been on fire. He has averaged 21.1 points per 36 minutes with a true shooting percentage of 71.6 percent (!).
The reason, one might argue, that the Nets might not be at their best is because of some of the role players. Marcus Thornton, who provided a great spark off the bench toward the end of the regular season, has struggled in his first ever playoff series. Mason Plumlee, also in his first playoff series, has also struggled. Andray Blatche looked good in Game 3, but that was only after ugly games No. 1 and 2.
If the regulars weren’t playing so well that might be an issue, but if things keep up the way they’ve been, with Johnson controlling the offense and the other four starters taking turns helping out, they should be able to keep winning. If guys like Thornton and Plumlee do step up there will be fewer incidences like there were in Game 3 where the Nets nearly blew a 15-point lead.
“I definitely feel we have another level we can go up to,” Williams said. “Definitely on both ends of the floor. I don’t think we’ve really shot well as a team yet, so it would be nice to have one of those games.”