Nets Need Rebounds

The New Jersey Nets can either start rebounding with the Cleveland Cavaliers or they can pack their bags and go home.

That's the scenario coach Lawrence Frank laid out for the Nets the past two days in preparing them for what has to be considered a must-win Game 3 on Saturday at the Continental Airlines Arena.

Oddsmakers have made New Jersey -5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 185 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 50% of bets for this game have been placed on New Jersey -5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

 

If LeBron James and the Cavs take a 3-0 lead in the second-round series, New Jersey can ``fuhgeddaboudit'' as Nets fan James Gandolfini, aka Tony Soprano, would say.

No NBA team has won a playoff series after falling behind 3-0.

And the Nets probably won't overcome their current dilemma unless they go to the boards.

Cleveland, averaging 13.5 rebounds more than its opponents in the playoffs, has destroyed the Nets on the glass, outrebounding them 100-69, including 39-12 on the offensive end.

``If the rebounds don't change, it's going to be tough for us to win,'' Frank said Friday after the Nets practiced for less than an hour.

With three days off since Game 2, Frank has had plenty of time to watch tapes of the first two games. There wasn't a lot to like.

The Nets missed 47 blockouts. They consistently failed to make contact with their man after opposing shots went up. Jason Kidd and Vince Carter didn't drop down into the lane after Mikki Moore and Jason Collins left their men to provide help on defense.

``Too many times we are giving them free runs at the rim,'' said Frank, noting Cleveland had 25 shots by the rim in Game 2 alone. ``We have to get back to the mentality of hitting first, which we did through the bulk of the year.''

The Nets were fifth in the NBA in fewest offensive rebounds allowed this season.

Besides getting back to Rebounding 101, Frank also is considering some lineup changes for Game 3. The most surprising might be going to a smaller lineup against Cleveland's big front line of Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Drew Gooden.

Ilgauskas and Gooden have outrebounded Moore and Collins 51-11.

The Nets' best lineup this season has featured Kidd, Carter, Richard Jefferson and Bostjan Nachbar playing with one big man, mostly Moore. Frank could also use veteran Clifford Robinson as the fifth man.

When that lineup is on the floor, the Nets move the ball better and run more, which is what was missing in the first two games in Cleveland. Without a second big man, Carter has frequently taken the job of guarding a bigger opponent.

``The key is will we, can we take the challenge of keeping these guys off the boards?'' Frank said.

If the Nets can reduce Cleveland's rebounding edge, they have a chance to get back in the series with the next two games at home.

``We know New Jersey is going to come out like gang busters and we may have to change our coverages periodically or within the first two minutes of the game to see if we can slow them down somehow, some way,'' Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. ``We can't let them kill us in transition.''

While they have won a franchise-record six straight playoff games and 10 overall dating to the end of the regular season, the Cavaliers are wary heading to New Jersey.

They learned last year in their conference semifinal series that comebacks are possible. The Pistons did a number on Cleveland in the first two games of that series, only to see the Cavs win the next three. Had they gotten an offensive rebound in Game 6, LeBron would have been playing in the conference final last year.

``We've been on the road and won before in the playoffs,'' James said. ``It shouldn't be anything new to us. We know it's going to be really loud. It's an important win for those guys. We want to focus like it's a must-win for us.''

The Nets defended their home court well in their opening-round series with Toronto, winning all three games. The first two were blowouts and the third came down to Jefferson making two plays at the end to win it.

``We can't dwell on our mistakes or lay in misery about blown opportunities,'' Moore said. ``We just got to go out and play. We know what we do good and we know what we need to stop doing. Stop turning the ball over, get guys out of the paint and make sure we give them no more second-chance shots.''

In other words, rebound.

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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