Scotto: Nets Want Raptors, Not Bulls in Playoffs

1909fuhgeddabouditThe Nets and Bulls are on course for a potential rematch of last year’s first-round playoff series.

Is this the ideal scenario for Brooklyn? As they say in the borough, “Fuhgeddaboudit!”

It’s been a frigid winter in Brooklyn, and a trip to the “Windy City” could dampen any hopes of the Nets springing ahead to the next round.

“They don’t want to see Chicago,” an Eastern Conference executive told SheridanHoops.

Since Jan. 1, Brooklyn has gone 28-12 and has the best winning percentage (.700) of any Eastern Conference team. In addition, since Dec. 27, Brooklyn has won 19 of 21 home games and 12 in a row.

The reason for Brooklyn’s success is predominantly thanks to a small ball lineup with Paul Pierce at power forward and Kevin Garnett and Mason Plumlee anchoring the center position after Brook Lopez’s season-ending injury. In addition, Shaun Livingston has become a permanent fixture in the starting lineup as the primary floor general, while Deron Williams has since moved off the ball.

That lineup is ideal when facing a similar small ball team such as the Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks, Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz. The Nets have a combined 12-0 record against those teams.

Conversely, teams with a traditional frontcourt have caused the Nets woes. Brooklyn is a combined 0-12 against the Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Portland Trail Blazers and Washington Wizards.

Carlos BoozerThat trend doesn’t get much better against the Bulls, who feature a bruising frontcourt of Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson that presents the biggest issue for Brooklyn.

“It’s the three-man frontcourt combination because the Bulls are one of the few teams that don’t play with a stretch forward or a smaller guy,” the scout told SheridanHoops. “Whereas, the Nets have had success going to a smaller lineup. When you have Boozer posting up on Pierce, it’s going to be a long night for Pierce. It’s hard to go small against them because they’ll punish you. Physically, the Bulls will take a massive toll on them compared to any other team.”

Noah has become the league’s best all-around center. He leads all centers in triple-doubles (3) and ranks fourth in double-doubles (36).

The Bulls run the offense through Noah in the high post in addition to his nightly defensive coordinator role. They appear headed for home court advantage in the first round – an amazing feat considering Derrick Rose has missed most of the season and Luol Deng was traded.

(RELATED: JOAKIM NOAH THIRD IN SHERIDAN’S LATEST MVP RANKINGS)

Joakim NoahThe statistics speak for themselves.

Noah leads all centers in assists (5.09), assist percentage (25.5) and defensive rating (95.7), ranks second in minutes played (34.7), third in steals (1.2), fifth in rebounding (11.19), seventh in blocks (1.59) and free throws attempted (4.2), eighth in free throws made (3.07), ninth in PER (20.58) and 13th in scoring (12.41).

“Noah just wills that team and they find a way to win,” the Eastern Conference executive told SheridanHoops. “Noah is a game-changer. Toronto doesn’t have a game-changer.”

Toronto hasn’t made the playoffs since the 2007-08 season and has split the four-game season series with Brooklyn. That’s why one Western Conference scout who has seen both teams extensively believes Toronto is Brooklyn’s best bet to advance.

“My first impression would be the Raptors because they have less experience, not as good of a coach and the matchups are better,” the scout told SheridanHoops.

Toronto’s roster has played a combined 156 playoff games while Chicago’s roster has played a combined 366. Raptors core pieces such as DeMar DeRozan, Patrick Patterson, Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas have yet to play a minute in the postseason.

Valanciunas, Patterson, Amir Johnson and Tyler Hansbrough don’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of opponents in the interior.

Seriously, how could we forget Hansbrough’s reaction when Metta World Peace confronted him?

Imagine if Garnett got in Hansbrough’s face?

Kyle LowryOn a more serious note, the preference also comes down to the Nets being better equipped to stop Kyle Lowry and DeRozan on the perimeter than Noah and Boozer inside.

Livingston has been a revelation for the Nets in a comeback season as the team’s best perimeter defender due to his size and length. He has seven inches on Lowry, which compensates for his disadvantage in speed.

As for DeRozan, Brooklyn can have Andrei Kirilenko shadow him effectively thanks to his ability to block shots as a help defender. Kirilenko, though not mistaken for a gazelle, is quicker than most forwards and can stay in front of DeRozan long enough to contest his shots thanks to his two-inch height advantage.

The task of stopping Noah and Boozer is more difficult. Garnett has lost two steps moving laterally on defense, Jason Collins is more of an enforcer than defensive presence, while Plumlee and Pierce don’t have the strength to win the rebounding battle in the trenches.

Even if Brooklyn is able to beat Chicago in a first-round series, Tom Thibodeau will maximize every ounce of effort from his team. An aging Nets roster isn’t built to withstand multiple rigorous playoff battles with quick turnarounds.

All of Brooklyn’s success against the back-to-back defending champs means nothing if it can’t make it far enough to face Miami in the Eastern Conference finals.

When the playoffs start, it’s clear the Nets would prefer to blow off a “Windy City” trip for a voyage up north.

Michael Scotto is a Sheridan Hoops NBA columnist. You can follow him on Twitter.

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  1. jln says

    Raptors and Nets are two teams that represent two completely different philosophies. Considering the off-season signings, and all the playoff experience, the Raptors would be considered the underdog against the Nets. It would be a tough matchup though.

  2. Jerry says

    Dwane Casey has THE RAPTORS in third, while Kidd has an all-star ensemble (highest salary in the league) and is in fifth, and you’re telling me Kidd’s the better coach? Gimme a break. That scout should lose their job.

  3. Amen Seu Ra says

    This is a bias article, I get you want BK to advance to the 2nd rd of the playoffs so through TO seems like the best route. And the your main point is frontline fear? This is a weak point Raps have a better bench and their frontline is better than what ur arrogance gives them credit for. We’ll see if ur point hold water

  4. Seriously says

    The Raptors will lose to the the Nets because Hansborough didn’t fight Ron Artest. LOL

    This is some rich analysis. I thought Sheridan Hoops was supposed to be high end?? This article is near tabloid level.

  5. Nets suck says

    Nets are getting another first round exit by the Bulls. Only difference is it wont take 7 games because the Bulls wont be injured this time.

  6. jerry25 says

    Nets HAVE the players to beat the Bulls.
    Kirilenko can give Boozer fits, if he’s healthy. He didn’t play much in past meetings, but Nets easily beat the Bulls in their last meeting, thanks to Thornton, who wasn’t on team before. However, KG has to be healthy for the 20 minutes he plays.
    Blatche needs to have a bigger Leash put on him by the coaching staff. He’s capable of much more than he’s shown, if only he would trim down (weight) a little and stick to staying around the paint. Kidd and the Nets have minimal experience playing 2 Bigs at the same time (Bigs = Blatche, KG, Plumlee and Collins) during 2014. As you said above, going small hasn’t worked against many teams, including Bulls. The problem is that they can’t even practice going Big, until KG returns. KG prefers playing PF, and his length can give Boozer fits.

    Another problem with Nets finishing 4th/5th, is that they would prefer to play the Heat in the 2nd round. They give Heat fits, but either haven’t been healthy or matched up well vs Pacers. There is still a chance that Heat catch Pacers.

    Not mentioned is Health and Back-to-Backs, which explains nearly every loss in 2014 if not the season.
    Nets won’t have B-T-B’s in playoffs and there should be rest between. Kirilenko and KG should be ready.

    I’d still rather play the Raptors, as both losses were the result of BTB or a dumb play by DWill with 8 seconds left.

    Wizzards are the toughest match up for Nets, if healthy (Nene), between their bigs and quick Wall. I wouldn’t be shocked if Wiz beat TOR and then gave Heat fits.

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