Howard Beck: ‘Mark Jackson Deserves Tremendous Credit For Warriors’

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(Credit: Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images)

(Credit: Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images)

Last season, as a No. 5 seed, the Memphis Grizzlies upset the Clippers in the first round of the playoffs and beat the Thunder in the semifinals before getting swept by the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals.

Looking at this year’s playoff bracket, is there a road team that could not only win a first-round series but also advance to the conference finals?

“The Eastern Conference – it’s tough to say anything in the middle would be an upset, but I think the Brooklyn Nets are the team that has the best chance of a team starting off on the road and winning a first-round series against Toronto,” Bleacher Report NBA columnist Howard Beck said on The John Feinstein Show. “That’s a brand-new playoff team, a really young team. The Nets are coming in with a lot of momentum, having played really great ball the last few months. (Paul) Pierce and (Kevin) Garnett have infused a different kind of attitude in that team. There’s a lot of playoff experience, so I’ll go with the Nets.”

Once 10-21, the Nets (44-38) have gone 34-17 since New Year’s. Should the Nets knock off the No. 3 Raptors, however, they would likely face No. 2 Miami in the second round.

“They dropped themselves in the bracket where they now have to face Miami in the semifinals instead of the conference finals,” Beck said. “I’m not sure that was the wisest course, so that might prevent them from making that run to the conference finals.”

Really? The Nets went 4-0 against the Heat this year. Why does Beck not put much faith in that?

“Partially because it’s playoffs versus regular season, partially because all four of those games were decided by a point or two, and partially because it’s the Miami Heat,” Beck said. “They’re not worried about regular season losses to any particular team.

“I do think the significance of that 4-0 record, though, is the Nets – who got obliterated every time they played Miami last season – now have the confidence that they can hang with that team. And again, I go back to Pierce and Garnett. I think they just have a different kind of attitude out there on the court.”

In the West, meanwhile, the Golden State Warriors announced this week that Andrew Bogut (fractured rib) will be out indefinitely. Bogut, who averaged 7.3 points, 10.0 rebounds and 1.8 blocks, was the anchor of a team that finished tenth in the league in scoring defense (99.5).

Bogut’s absence is a crushing blow for a team that pushed the Spurs to a six-game series last year.

“The Bogut injury is crippling for them,” Beck said. “Their strength has been their defense, of all things, considering that we always view them as a jump-shooting team and an offensive team.”

And yet, it’s possible that Mark Jackson could be fired if the Warriors don’t win their first-round series against the Clippers – despite the fact that they won 51 games this year. It was Golden State’s best season in decades.

If Jackson is fired, Beck doesn’t think he’ll be unemployed for very long.

“I’d say he’s got a really good shot (at another job),” Beck said. “I don’t think there’s going to be as many vacancies this summer as there were last year because half of the league turned over their coaching positions, so there are fewer possibilities. But look, Mark Jackson went to a team that has not experienced success in a very long time and certainly had no defensive mindset whatsoever. He’s turned them into a top-three defensive team, and I think he deserves tremendous credit for that.”

Whatever happens this postseason, Beck feels firing Jackson would be a bad move.

“Who’s better?” Beck asked. “Rather than focusing on the Warriors being somehow a disappointment (with) the 6-seed, consider how strong the Western Conference has been. You’ve got seven 50-win teams. If they lost in the first round without Bogut, I don’t think you can hang that on Jackson.”

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