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Hoop it up all week with SI.com's writers in the NBA Playoffs Blog, a daily journal of NBA commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
1:42 AM ET, 5/13/06

Everyone but Shaq beating Nets

Posted by Chris Mannix
Shaq had 19 points in 37 minutes Friday night.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Here's a disclaimer Nets fans might be happy to hear: Shaquille O'Neal is not going to beat you in this series.

It's not going to happen. Friday night Shaquille O'Neal was on the floor for 37 minutes. He scored 19 points, pulled down nine rebounds and shot 60 percent from the foul line. And he was barely a factor.

The truth is New Jersey's strategy against the Diesel has been masterful if not simplistic. They have the Shaq-buster in Jason Collins (if Ruben Patterson can claim to be the Kobe-stopper, then I can anoint Collins the Shaq-buster), who inexplicably garnered only one vote for the NBA all-defensive team. Collins was in O'Neal's face the entire night, matching him in minutes and playing O'Neal straight up better than any center since Hakeem Olajuwon. Too strong? Put it this way: If the 2001 76ers had had Collins in the middle instead of Dikembe Mutombo, they might have lasted longer than five games. That's how good Collins is.

But stopping Shaq isn't the problem. O'Neal isn't the indomitable force he once was. Like it or not, the Diesel is containable under the right circumstances. Dwyane Wade, however, is not. Wade sliced the Nets' defense to the tune of 30 points, absorbing heavy contact (one Vince Carter elbow required stitches to his lip) along the way.

Then there is Antoine Walker. Criticize Walker all you want (and most do) but Employee No. 8 is as skilled a player in the game and Friday he put every one of those abilities on display. Walker was able to stretch the defense with the long ball (16 points) and make smart decisions when operating as point forward, a role many had envisioned for him over his career but few have been able to create.

Wade is beating you. Walker is beating you. Friday night your own team was beating you. Carter is a bona fide scoring machine but last night he committed three costly turnovers down the stretch, including one play where he had his pocket picked by a blitzing O'Neal. That's Shaq making a steal off the pick and roll. Guess how often that happens.

Cliff Robinson is beating you. Uncle Cliffy served the first game of his five-game suspension Friday for violating the league's drug policy, a ban that Nets CEO Rod Thorn said Robinson likely "would not be appealing." Friday night John Thomas -- he of the two regular-season games under his belt -- assumed Robinson's place in the rotation. Thomas is a powerful presence underneath but is not in Robinson's class offensively. Without Robinson on the floor, New Jersey's second unit is like a pistol firing blanks.

New Jersey must now regroup because a loss Sunday puts the Nets' season on life support. Carter must step up. Nenad Krstic (4-for-14 from the floor) must step up. Jason Kidd must step up. Summer vacations are nice. But they can wait another month.


Posted: 3:46 AM   by Anonymous
Two keys for the series
1. Krstic must overcome walker's+ haslem's contributions.

2. And Carter must be greater than Wade.

3. Shaq not being the great one.
In games 1 factors 1,2,3 were with the nets. In game 2 factor 3 was with the nets. And in game 3 factor 2 and 3 was with the nets. There fore the main key is factor one.
Posted: 4:49 AM   by David
It's true that the Heat won without a great performance from O'Neal. But combined with Mourning and Haslem they beat the Nets up inside, at least in scoring. I think the final score was an 11 point difference, about the advantage Shaq gave them. The Nets can match the Heat on the outside, although it was clear that Wade was the most efficiently productive player in this last game. He is definitely capable of outplaying Carter (but the reverse is certainly true as well).

As for Walker, it's true that he is quite versatile, and talented. But his inconsistency - bad shots, turnovers, poor defense - will beat you at least as often as his skills will help you. He is a force, but Miami is probably better with Posey on the floor, at least in terms of defense. As for spreading the offense, Posey can shoot some too.
Posted: 10:15 AM   by Jonathan
I agree with everything said except that of Antoine Walker. So, he had a good game and some decent stats. What about every other game he has played in these playoffs? The guy is the definition of streaky. If he makes one from downtown, you can be certain he is going to jack up at least three more bricks subsequent to that.

Anyway, limit Wade and you win this series.
Posted: 12:15 PM   by Anonymous
Really, how much more or how many more points does Vince Carter has to score in order to keep this team afloat? Yeah, he's the best offensive weapon on the team, but the other guys around him need to help with that scoring load, which includes Jason Kidd increasing his point production to at least 20 points, along with his 10 to 12 dimes. In other words, Kidd has become the Western Conference's version of Steve Nash and be more of a scorer than facillitator at this point in the series. Game 4 is definitely do or die for the New Jersey Nets. Pat Riley is a coach with a killer instinct, and given past years of experience in playoff series against the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks, you better believe he wants to make Game 5 the final one, so that Shaq and Wade can rest up for their inevitable battle with the Detroit Pistons.
Posted: 12:17 PM   by Anonymous
Let's All Jump To Conclusions
How can you say that everyone is beating the Nets except Shaq?

Like most sportswriters, you've used the results of the most recent game between two teams as your final analysis of the way things are or have been for the entire series. O, until something different happens.

So, Shaq didn't dominate. Everyone's beating New Jersey but Shaq. Really? He's had 60 points (20, 21, and 19, respectively) and 25 boards in the series so far. The Shaq of old, he ain't, but how can this be anyone's idea of containing him? Define contain.

Antoine Walker scores 16 points in Game 3, and you say to the Nets: 'Antoine Walker is beating you.' Is he? Sixteen points is a nice contribution, but what about 6 points in Game 1 and those 4 points in Game 2? It's not all about points, that's for sure, but using this criteria, I'd say New Jersey is beating him.

So in game 3, now that Miami played a solid game and Shaq didn't 'dominate,' everyone's beating the Nets except Shaq. Two games ago, you or some other staffer would have written the same kind of dribble based on the outcome of the first game: Omg, the Nets wailed on the Heat. Looks like the entire team is finally starting to gel. Punch their ticket for Detroit.

Robinson's out and Krstic hasn't shown up, but Miami's only up 2-1 and they have had no answer for Vince Carter.

I'm a big Miami fan. I really hope they pull it off, but folks who do even a little of their own thinking would question whether Miami is really in control as you suggest based solely on the results of Game 3. Blinders, man.

Posted: 1:33 PM   by Anonymous
I think this series is showing how much greated Wade is over Vince. Vince is good but Wade is that much better. He made Kidd look out of place last night when it came to defense. Vince when its all said and done will go for the jumper, Wade will go for the kill and attack the basket thats the diffence between the two.
Posted: 2:26 PM   by Anonymous
game aside, how many times is wade going to fall down and get up like he's some true warrior... its driving me insane! He laid on the floor and didn't move for two whole plays and no heat personnel called a time out or anything to see how bad he was hurt. What is up with that guy??
Posted: 5:00 PM   by Anonymous
The Nets need to stop giving Miami's 3-point shooters room and contest those shots. I can recall at least 5 occasions on which Kidd didn't even run at the shooter -- it's inexcusable for a player of his caliber.

Perimeter defense will win the series.
Posted: 6:28 PM   by Anonymous
Wade is a soccer player...
Posted: 8:10 PM   by Anonymous
Walker is beating NJ by not taking 15 shots a game when he only makes 2. That is what he did in both games 1 and 2. When his shot was on only then did he shoot more. Part of being a great player is knowing when to step back and let others take over. Walker did that in all 3 games.

With Walker on the floor we have won 2 out of 3 games. Typical hate for Miami to always blame him even when he plays the right way.
Posted: 8:11 PM   by Anonymous
Walker is playing out of Position. He is streaky because there is no role defined for him. That is Rileys fault.
Posted: 12:49 AM   by Anonymous
James Posey is the 2nd best player in the league, next to Lebron James.
Posted: 1:12 PM   by Anonymous
Shaq dosnt have to put up extreme numbers to be effective. Just the presence of the big man is enough to scare the biggest of big men. He allows other people to get open. I think hes a presence any way you look at it.
Posted: 3:28 PM   by D.SINGH
Everyone says Shaq is'nt beating the Nets. Well guess what Shaqs presence alone is reason enought for Miami's wins. Lets not forget that the "Big Man" is getting old. He does a good job finding open teammates and doesn't need to put up 30 points to dominate.