With the NBA Playoffs beginning next weekend, the Brooklyn Nets will be hitting the road. Their opponent will be either the Chicago Bulls or Toronto Raptors. No matter their opponent, this will be a difficult first round matchup for the Nets. The Nets have no way of moving up in the standings with just two games remaining. They can still slip to the sixth spot if the Nets lose their final two games and the Washington Wizards win each of theirs.
Against the Bulls this season, the Nets went 1-2. Facing the Bulls would be rematch of the seven-game series in last year's playoffs. However, last year's series was between two much different teams. Some things have remained the same, though. Bulls center Joakim Noah has given the Nets fits over the last two seasons. Noah is truly one of the very best center's in the NBA with his diverse skill set. Carlos Boozer is still a very difficult post player. Jimmy Butler is a terrific defender who has developed into an all-around player with his offensive skill development. Kirk Hinrich is very much the pest on the defensive end as he has been throughout his career. Tom Thibodeau continues to get his players to play hard every night.
As for the Raptors, they are a young up-and-coming team with plenty of potential. Brooklyn was also just 1-2 versus Toronto this season. Kyle Lowry has been fantastic all season long. He very well could have been an All-Star in the Eastern Conference. Lowry has arguably been the Raptors best player this season. DeMar DeRozan developed into an All-Star level player and an even more dominant scorer. Jonas Valanciunas is and developing center who seems to get better by the day, Dwane Casey has done an outstanding with the Raptors. Their performance this season could very well be considered a surprise, especially after the team traded star forward Rudy Gay in the middle of the season.
Twelve months ago the Nets were led by Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez as they entered the playoffs. They were being coached by P.J. Carlesimo. When the Nets begin their playoff appearance this time around, they will be led by Williams, Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Shaun Livingston along with a plethora of veterans coming off the bench. First-year head coach Jason Kidd will get his first taste of what it is like to be a coach in the playoffs. It will be a drastic change from his playing days.
It has been a remarkable turnaround for the Nets. Since January 1st, the Nets have a record of 34-15. That record is the best in the Eastern Conference since that time. Kidd has seemed to become much more improved as a coach. He has gone with a small ball lineup since Lopez's season-ending injury that has worked terrifically for the Nets.
The Nets are a veteran ladened team. The Raptors and Bulls are two very good opponents to face in the first round. Regardless, expect the Nets to be ready to go come next weekend.
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