There is no quit in the Brooklyn Nets. They might be old, they might be missing their best player, and they might be the most expensive team in the NBA by a country mile, but you can’t question Brooklyn’s work ethic. Down 2-0 to the Miami Heat in their Eastern Conference semifinal, the Nets took down the defending champions in Game 3, then nearly tied the series in Game 4. The Heat can be beat! Anything is possible!
In reality, this isn’t nearly the kind of David v. Goliath story that moves product. As a 2-point road favorite on Monday’s NBA lines, Miami’s chances of winning Game 4 would have been roughly 54 percent (according to the fair prices at Wizard of Odds) to 56 percent (according to Basketball Reference). That’s pretty good when you’re playing on the road against a team as solid as Brooklyn. Empires have been built on smaller margins. Miami still had a 44-46 percent chance of losing Game 4. What can the Nets do to maximize their chances in Game 5?
1. Shoot 60 percent from downtown
The 3-point shot is the great equalizer in the NBA, and the Heat are not one of the better perimeter defenders in the league, allowing opponents to hit 36.2 percent from downtown during the regular season (No. 18 overall). In Game 3, Brooklyn put up 25 trey attempts and sank 15 of them, winning 104-90 and beating the basketball lines as a 1-point home dog. Only four other teams in NBA playoff history have shot 60 percent or better on at least 25 attempts. All four won their games. What, is 60 percent too much to ask? Fair enough. A mere 57 percent will suffice (7-0 SU).
2. Grab 20 more rebounds than Miami
These were two of the four worst rebounding teams in the NBA during the regular season, but in each of the first four games of this series, Brooklyn has had the better offensive rebound rate. Game 3 saw the Nets out-rebound the Heat 43-27, including 9-5 on the offensive glass, allowing Brooklyn to take four more shot attempts than Miami. Can the Nets do even better in Game 5? Teams that grab at least 20 more boards than their opponents have gone 58-7 SU in the playoffs.
3. Dish out 15 more assists than Miami
After the Nets climb the ladder and drag down those rebounds, they usually do a very good job with spacing and ball movement, creating those precious open 3-pointers. Brooklyn has had the advantage in assists in every game since the opener, and none more so than in the Game 3 victory, where Brooklyn had 26 assists to just 13 for Miami. If the Nets can goose that margin up to 15 dimes, playoff history is on their side at 77-2 SU.
4. Hold LeBron James to 15 points or fewer
The Nets did a reasonably good job of holding James (29.3 PER) to 28 points on 8-of-15 shooting in Game 3. But if they want to extend this series, maybe they should try throwing the kitchen sink at him. James has been held to 15 points or below in a playoff game just eight times, and his team has lost all eight games. That includes Game 4 of the 2011 NBA Finals, where the Dallas Mavericks limited James to a career-low eight points in an 86-83 victory before going on to beat Miami for the title. Anything is possible!