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Small ball a good call

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Is bigger really better?

It’s the question being asked across the NBA following the rise of the Miami Heat, a team that won the NBA championship last year without a traditional front court thanks to a 6-foot-8 phenom who is as comfortable running the point as posting up on the block.

This season, the Nets have no answer for the Heat. Brooklyn has lost three games to the defending champs by an average of 21 points, including the 105–85 stomping on Jan. 30 at the Rustbowl on Flatbush Avenue.

Two days after the latest Heat drubbing, the Nets took on a Chicago Bulls team playing without prized bigs Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer, due to injury. Entering the fourth quarter with the undermanned Bulls leading 67–63, Nets coach P.J. “Peej” Carlemiso subbed in an unconventional, small lineup and rolled to a four-point victory.

The Nets kept three guards on the floor, complemented by forward Gerald Wallace, and forward-center Andray Blatche. The new look resulted in better spacing and a more agile and effective unit.

Brooklyn’s five-man units with the two highest “winning percentages” — calculated by the number of games in which the lineup outscored opponents — both have the 6-foot-7 Wallace playing power forward, as he did in the fourth quarter against Chicago, not at his traditional small forward post, according to 82games.com.

This allows Brooklyn to fill the three smaller positions with guards, while All-Star center Brook Lopez or Blatche serves as the low-post anchor. Brooklyn has been reluctant to go this route and sacrifice the rebounding prowess of power forwards Kris Humphries and Reggie Evans, but such thinking ignores the fact that Wallace — nickname: “Crash” — made a name for himself by snatching boards throughout his 11-year career.

Yes, the Nets were able to go small against the Bulls because Noah and Boozer were hurt. But this isn’t about Chicago — it’s about Miami, the team most likely to stand in the way of any Eastern Conference title contender, and a squad that is willing to cede dominance on the glass in order to blitz opponents with a mobile, shooter-laden attack.

The Nets have failed to impose their style of play on Miami. Now they must try to keep pace.

Matt Spolar is a nearly 6-foot-1 journalist with a middling high school basketball career who is sure the Nets win thanks to team’s top-tier guards.

Posted 12:00 am, February 7, 2013
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