Eastern Conference Playoff Breakdown (New Jersey vs. Indiana)
If you ever look in your thesaurus under evenly matched playoff teams, if there is such an entry, you will find New Jersey versus Indiana. Despite the obvious difference between the two teams' records, probably skewed because New Jersey was playing in an extremely weak division, there is no other evidence to suggest New Jersey is a better team than Indiana is, which has led me to two conclusions. Either New Jersey is not as good as its record may indicate or Indiana is better than its record. To further prove my point that these teams may be underrated and overrated, respectively, Indiana won the season series 2-1.
The two teams' offenses and defenses are almost identical to each other. The offenses play at the same tempo so neither team should encounter unfamiliar in this series. Each team should pretty much be able to score where and how it wants to. What will be the deciding factor in this series is who can play better on the road.
New Jersey Offense: 93.8 ppg
Indiana Defense: 92.0 ppg
Indiana Offense: 93.9 ppg
New Jersey Defense: 92.5 ppg
Like I said. Pretty much identical.
New Jersey Offense: 104 points per 100 possessions
Indiana Defense: 102 points per 100 possessions
Indiana Offense: 104 points per 100 possessions
New Jersey Defense: 102 points per 100 possessions
Even more identical, but New Jersey's team statistics should raise a red flag. They are certainly more indicative of a .500 team, which Indiana happens to be, than they are of a team who went 49-33 during the season. With average statistics like these, New Jersey has further corroborated my conclusion that they are a worse team than their record would suggest.
Since neither team has a clear advantage in the team statistics, we must return to comparing the net PER ratings, created by John Hollinger, of the teams' position players.
Anyone familiar with the Nets roster knows that it is a predominantly three-guard lineup and the net production stats bear that out. Meanwhile, Indiana is carried by its frontcourt. If the two teams play as they normally do, each team will be able to exploit the other's weaknesses. But which team has more weaknesses?
Point Guard-Although Jason Kidd is still considered to be one of the top point guards in the NBA, his net production demonstrates he is only a slightly more productive player than his opponents' point guards. Still, the Nets' point guards, +0.7, are more productive than the Pacers' point guards, -1.3. Advantage: New Jersey
Shooting Guard-The Nets also have a significant production advantage at this position, thanks in large part to the play of Vince Carter. Nets' shooting guards have a net production of +3.5. Pacers' shooting guards have a net production of -1.6. Advantage: New Jersey
Small Forward-At this position, Indiana's players finally have a net positive production of +1.6, which is respectable. Unfortunately, the Nets have a net production of +3.7. Advantage: New Jersey
Power Forward-The Nets confirm what most people who have watched this team has seen since the beginning of the season. Their frontcourt players are a joke. Nets' power forwards have a net production of -2.0 and the Pacers' power forwards have a net production of +1.3. Advantage: Indiana
Center-With an abysmal net production of -4.7, the Nets might be better served to only play with four players and just get a fan out of the stands to take up space in the middle of the lane. The Pacers' centers give slightly more production than opposing centers at +1.0. Advantage: Indiana
Prediction: New Jersey wins this series in seven games, solely because the team possesses home-court advantage. With the difference in the net production of all five positions being only 0.2 in favor the Nets, it will not be an easy series win by any standard.
Stats courtesy of 82games.com