Playoff roundtable: Do the Nets or Blazers have a better shot at overcoming an 0-2 hole?
SI.com’s NBA writers debate the biggest playoff question of the day. Today, we examine …
Do the Brooklyn Nets or Portland Trail Blazers have a better shot at coming back from an 0-2 hole?
Lee Jenkins: Nets. The Blazers, like so many teams that rely heavily on the three-pointer, are streaky. In the first two-and-a-half months of this season, they looked at times like they might challenge for the Western Conference, and in the next two-and-a-half months, they looked at times like they might miss the playoffs entirely. They scorched the Rockets flimsy perimeter defense in the first round but have been doused by the Spurs, making less than a third of their threes. They are capable of catching fire and climbing back in the series. But in the playoffs, against an opponent like San Antonio, it takes more than a hot hand. Portland ranked 22nd in points allowed this season and last in the post-season. The Spurs have hung 230 on them in two games. There's reason to believe the Blazers will start making more outside shots. There's less evidence the defense will come around.
Ben Golliver: Nets. Both Brooklyn and Portland are cooked, but I suppose the Nets are slightly less cooked. There are just too many things going wrong for the Blazers on both sides of the ball for them to find a way to make their series interesting. San Antonio's defense has suffocated Portland's shooters, limited LaMarcus Aldridge's efficiency, forced turnovers, and kept Damian Lillard from going nuts from beyond the arc. On the other end, the Spurs' ball movement, masterful pick-and-roll play, three-point shooting and offensive rebounding has combined to pummel the Blazers' questionable defense. That dominance across the board produced a 24-point win in Game 1 and a 17-point win in Game 2, and the Spurs have shown no signs of slowing down. Couple all of that with the loss of Mo Williams to a groin injury -- a development that weakens an already weak bench that has been outscored 100-37 through two games -- and Portland faces the strong possibility of a sweep. Things are bad for the Nets, too, just not quite this bad.
Rob Mahoney: Blazers. Neither trailing team has much chance of surviving this second round, though I have less faith in the Nets' ability to beat the Heat four times in five tries. Brooklyn's 4-0 regular season sweep was, for many reasons, a bit of a mirage; three of those Miami losses came by a single point, two of those games were played without Dwyane Wade and none of the Nets' wins were waged against a Heat team in playoff mode. With Wade playing well and Miami altogether stabilized, Brooklyn is cooked.
Portland is nearing that point, though I do have a bit more confidence in the Blazers' ability to adapt to their current circumstances. Off the top: For the Blazers, going home actually means something. The crowds at the Moda Center are generally pretty electric, though they were particularly so in the first-round games against the Rockets. Portland's is a truer, more influential home court advantage, to whatever extent that matters. Beyond that, the Blazers have a fluid offense that has yet to play its best game. Terry Stotts will have his hands full trying to adjust around a team defending as well as the Spurs, though as we saw in San Antonio's own first round series against Dallas, that kind of maneuvering can be done. It is possible, no matter how dire things seem in the wake of two big losses.
That first-round showing by the Spurs leaves some lingering doubt in other areas as well; if nothing else, the Mavericks demonstrated that these Spurs are very much beatable if thrown off their game just a bit. Changes are needed to make Portland more solvent offensively while dramatically improving its team defense -- tall orders, both. Still, this Blazers team is more capable than it has shown in the first two games of this series and I suspect they have a few more competitive efforts in them at the least.
Matt Dollinger: Nets. Only six percent of NBA teams have come back from 0-2 holes. I'm going with the Nets, even though picking a team down two games to the two-time defending champions does feel like a suicide mission. This isn't disrespect to Miami -- it's the ultimate respect for San Antonio, which toyed with Portland the last two games like it was playing on a Fisher-Price hoop. If there's one thing we know about Brooklyn -- and its two veteran leaders Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce -- it's that these guys don't quit. They didn't pack it in when Brook Lopez went down for the season. Or when Lawrence Frank was kicked to the curb. Or when they started the season 10-21. This is a resilient team. And if there was ever a team they could find the motivation to rally against, it's the Heat. Brooklyn might not be able to get 20 mediocre minutes out of KG anymore, but it's younger stars -- namely Deron Williams (0 points on 0-of-9 shooting in Game 2) -- have plenty of room for improvement.
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Chris Johnson: Blazers. The Nets began the second round hoping their success against Miami in the regular season (4-0 sweep) would manifest in the postseason. After two games, we can officially report that has not been the case. As expected, Miami has reached another gear in the playoffs, and the scariest part for Brooklyn is that LeBron James hasn’t even needed to summon his best effort yet. The Nets, in other words, are doomed. So are the Blazers, but slightly less so. The Spurs have done a good job making things difficult for LaMarcus Aldridge, but if Portland’s star power forward can channel his inner-early-first-round self – the guy who dropped 89 points combined in Games 1 and 2 against Houston – San Antonio could be in trouble. Plus, the Blazers should benefit from one of the best home court advantages in the NBA. Meanwhile, Kevin Garnett wants more from the Barclays Center crowd.
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