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On the Attack
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ, April 13, 2007 -- If you've ever listen to Lawrence Frank talk about basketball for more than a few minutes, you'd know how much he values the paint. Priority No. 1 for the Nets defense is keeping their opponent out of the paint.

"Paint attacks" is a stat that the Nets track every game. A paint attack is when a player has the ball with both of his feet in the lane. Obviously, you want as many paint attacks as you can get on offense, and you want to limit those of your opponent.

It's a fairly simple concept. Shots that come from inside that dark rectangle close to the basket are easier to make than shots that come from outside it. In addition, when you get into the lane, you make the defense collapse, and that creates open shot opportunities for your teammates on the perimeter.

If you're just dribbling or passing the ball around the perimeter, you're probably not going to get a good shot in that particular possession.

After two games in Toronto, there was a good amount of criticism aimed at Vince Carter. Specifically, it was his shot selection that people were calling out. Carter has as much talent as anyone in this league, but when he doesn't attack the basket, or when he shoots fadeaway jumpers, he's letting the defense off easy. And that happened way too often in the first two games. And Carter entered Game 3 shooting a dismal 13-of-43 (.302) from the field.

So, the writers wrote about it. And while Frank would never call out his player in front of the media, you would think that he talked with Vince behind closed doors about the shots he was taking.

Well, Vince got the message.

On the Nets' first possession, he passed up an 18-footer, took the ball to the elbow, and hit a floater in the lane. On the next one, he looked like he was going to pull up for a three on the break, but instead found Mikki Moore down low for a three-point play.

After two more paint scores from Moore and Richard Jefferson, Carter missed a jumper from the top of the key. But that would be the last time in the first quarter he'd shoot from the outside, and I'm not sure anyone had a chance to remind him to take it to the hoop.

What followed was a thing-of-beauty baseline drive and spin for a three-point play. And after a Jason Kidd fast break, VC gave us an instant replay of the baseline move, without the foul. Less than two minutes later, the Nets ran the same play three times in a row, getting the ball to Carter at the elbow. The results: layup on the left side, layup on the right side and a floater from five feet.

With 5:13 left in the first quarter, Carter had 13 points on 6-of-7 from the floor. The one miss was from the outside. The six makes were in the lane.

"I thought Vince's attack, getting into the paint and finishing strong around the rim, set a great tone and personality for the game," Frank said afterwards.

"Vince came out early and just took it to us," Sam Mitchell added.

And it just went on from there. And it wasn't just VC. The Nets scored 56 points in the paint for the game. The Raptors scored 24.

"That's how we have to play," Frank said. "It's not easy to do it. You have to be persistent. The next game will be harder than it was tonight. That's the nature of it. And yet, that's when you have to find a way. We have to make things easier for each other. And I think having 31 assists on 41 field goals, getting out in transition obviously had a lot to do with it. Whether it's coming off screens or pick and rolls, but just continue to be persistent to make sure that ball touches the paint."

Maybe the best thing about it from a Nets' perspective is that Carter didn't hesitate to say that the reason for his turnaround was the way he played, and not just the fact that shots weren't falling.

"My mentality," he said when asked what the difference was tonight. "I think I attacked the basket more. I was a little more aggressive and I just continued to play. Regardless if I played well or not, I wanted my mentality to stay the same. Just play basketball and continue to be aggressive and make plays for my team somehow."

And looking at the first two games, points in the paint has been a good indicator of how the games have gone. In Game 1 (won by New Jersey), the Nets outscored the Raptors 46-22 in the paint. And in Game 2 (won by Toronto), the tally was just 30-26 in favor of the Nets.

It's something to keep an eye on for the remainder of the series.

Random Thoughts

Say what you want about Jason Collins' offensive skills. The guy is an excellent post defender. And he knows that he can get away with a little more in the postseason. If you want to know why Chris Bosh scored only 11 points on 3-of-10 from the field, look no further than Collins. Mikki Moore did his part as well, and their teammates were ready to help whenever Bosh tried to make a move with the ball.

"How aggressive they were with the trap," Bosh said after the game, "that kind of surprised me. But I'll be looking for it on Sunday."

Frank on Kidd: "The fact that those numbers happen is a by-product of how gifted he is, but more importantly, how hard he works. What he's able to do is why we're here in this position and it's why he's one of the great point guards of his generation."

The Nets had 22 fast break points and Sam Mitchell didn't hesitate to throw Joey Graham under the bus when he was asked why Graham didn't start the third quarter.

"He just wasn't giving it to us," Mitchell said. "You got one assignment. When the ball goes up, find Richard Jefferson and you're guarding him. And Joey's too good of an athlete not to be able to get back when the shot goes up, find Richard Jefferson and stop him from getting easy baskets."


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