To learn more about the Blazers’ next opponent, we spoke with Nets Daily contributor Collin Helwig.
It’s been a few weeks since the Nets and Blazers last met in Brooklyn. What’s been the biggest storyline with the Nets since that OT loss?
It’s hard to not say a trip around the world, as the Nets went to France last week to partake in the 2024 NBA Paris Game with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The abundance of Brooklyn fans there was another indicator of the team’s successful efforts thus far in branching out beyond the United States. But from a more competitive standpoint, there hasn’t been a real change in terms of storylines since the Portland game, as Brooklyn’s only continued to take Ls on the chin. Their stagnant offense has been largely responsible for that. Some murmurs from Brian Windhorst about a Dejounte Murray trade and some chatter from Ben Simmons’ camp regarding a return have stoked the fanbase’s fire ever so slightly this week, but all in all, these are gloomy times in Nets World.
If the Nets win Wednesday, what would be the reason why?
Defense, mainly playing the switch, to be more specific. Since returning to that strategy Brooklyn has improved drastically, especially along the perimeter. It was really the only reason why they were able to hang with the Miami Heat on Monday night. Brooklyn should stick to it with Portland being a bottom-six team in rebound percentage this year. The Nets should be able to corral boards even with the switch taking them out of position. It worked to perfection vs Oklahoma City a few weeks ago, who also struggle on the boards. Keeping a hand in the face of Portland shooters at all times should be more of a priority anyway since the Blazers shot 52.6 percent from deep last time out after the Nets blitzed Simons on seemingly every screen.
What’s one thing people should know about the Nets that they couldn’t find in a box score?
With the Nets experimenting with the drop this season, Nic Claxton’s numbers have dipped a bit compared to last year. But don’t let that fool you. He’s still a guy with sure-fire DPOY skills given his ability to actually cover one through five. His blocks per game and advanced defensive metrics have only decreased due to the Nets inserting him in this new scheme that does not play to his strengths. He’s still someone you’ll want your ball-handlers and big to avoid alike even if the numbers don’t show it right now.
What’s a matchup that you are looking forward to seeing?
Dennis Smith Jr. vs Anfernee Simons is a classic defense vs offense matchup I look forward to. Smith Jr. resembles one of the game’s best on-ball defenders and is fresh off a four-steal performance vs Miami. As for Simons, we all saw what he’s capable of last time out. As long as Vaughn lets Smith Jr. guard Simons one-on-one unlike last time out, we should get some fun sequences.
What’s your prediction for Wednesday’s game?
With respect to Portland, I can’t imagine they’ll shoot above 50% from three again. They’re a bottom-six team in 3-point percentage and I just don’t see lightning striking twice especially if the Nets make the defensive adjustments I mentioned three answers ago. However, Brooklyn’s own offensive deficiencies should make this a close rock fight. With the Nets probably needing a win more than Portland as a team still alive for the Play-In even if it doesn’t feel that way right now, I’ll say Brooklyn wins it by a 102-95 final score