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Nets hit the road; troubles will follow

11/16/2012

After earning their first breakthrough victory in their new borough on Thursday night against the Celtics, the Nets took Friday off.

They’ll return to practice Saturday before heading out to Sacramento to begin a three-game West Coast road trip on Sunday.

The Nets are 5-2, but still have some concerns. Let’s take a look:

1. Health: Coach Avery Johnson is hopeful that Gerald Wallace can practice Saturday, and it’s possible that the team may get its versatile small forward back at some point during the trip. Wallace has missed the last six games due a sprained left ankle. Point guard Deron Williams suffered a right leg injury Thursday night, but ended up gimping it out, and expects to be fine. Obviously, the Nets can’t afford for D-Will to miss any time. He’s already had to deal with bone spurs in his left ankle. Reserve shooting guard MarShon Brooks played six minutes Thursday in his first action following a three-game absence due to a sprained left ankle. Brooks is still trying to work his way back into the rotation. Jerry Stackhouse, 38, has done a great job providing quality minutes in place of both players.

2. Starters' production: D-Will is shooting just 27.9 percent from 3-point range and is averaging four turnovers a night, while Joe Johnson is connecting at just a 38.5 percent clip from the field. These numbers have to improve. Brook Lopez’s offensive production has been tremendously efficient, but his defense remains a work in progress -- or rather something that might never get to the point where the team wants it to be. As ESPN Insider John Hollinger pointed out in a recent piece, both D-Will (110.6 points per 100 possessions) and Lopez (106.4) have struggled on defense. The Nets have been able to get by on that end against inferior opponents, but likely won’t be able to against elite teams. Which is why they need Wallace back to make up for his teammates’ shortcomings on that end of the floor.

3. Third quarters: For whatever reason, the Nets find themselves ranked last in the NBA in third-quarter scoring margin (minus-5.9 points per game), according stats obtained from teamrankings.com. On Thursday night, Boston outscored them 29-15 during a third period in which they went just 6-for-21 from the field. The Nets have had a difficult time protecting big leads. (See Minnesota, almost Orlando). Bottom line: they’re going to have to come out of the locker room with a different mindset.