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Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Optimism? Pessimism? Room for both

By Mike Mazzeo

The Brooklyn Nets suffered what might end up being their worst loss of the 2012-13 campaign, to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night in the second game of the regular season.

The Nets let a 22-point lead slip away in the second half. But there are still 80 games remaining, so there's no need to panic ... right?

Let's take a look at three reasons why you should be optimistic or pessimistic heading into Wednesday night's early litmus test against the defending champion Heat in Miami.

Avery Johnson and C.J. Watson
Avery Johnson has a strong second unit, with C.J. Watson at the point.
Three reasons for optimism:

1. They can score. If you've watched the first two games, you know this. When the Nets are moving the ball, their offense is tough to stop. On Monday night, they knocked down 13 3-pointers on 23 attempts. It was when they became too reliant on isolation basketball that they faltered against Minnesota.

2. They are deep. C.J. Watson, MarShon Brooks, Reggie Evans and Andray Blatche have proved themselves to be a formidable second unit while playing with anchor Joe Johnson. Nets coach Avery Johnson has a lot of weapons at his disposal to spell his starting five.

3. The talent is there. How many teams have a backcourt as talented as Deron Williams and Joe Johnson? How many teams have a scoring center like Brook Lopez? It's just a matter of developing continuity, and that's going to take time.

Three reasons for pessimism:

1. Where is the defense? Defense was the No. 1 concern for the Nets heading into the season, and very much remains their No. 1 concern right now. Avery Johnson might have to temper his expectations. Perhaps the Nets should shoot for being a top-18 defense, instead of a top-10 unit. How can you let Chase Budinger and Alexey Shved beat you?

2. Good teams finish. On Monday night, the Nets were up 22 in the third quarter. Then they got outscored 32-10 in the final period and gave up the final 11 points of the game. That can't happen. It just can't. Playoff-caliber teams finish off games like this. Williams, Joe Johnson and Lopez shot a combined 4-for-17 in the fourth. Unacceptable.

3. Will Wallace be OK? The Nets looked lost against the Timberwolves without Gerald Wallace (sprained left ankle, day-to-day). He's their best defender, can guard multiple positions, and allows them to play exotic lineups due to his versatility. If Wallace can't play, who is going to guard LeBron James? No one. How will the Nets handle Miami's smaller lineups? They won't.