On the road, one (difficult) game at a time

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

An easy win over the Bucks Friday night masked continued off-court issues, not to mention a three-game stretch from hell that begins Saturday night in Indianapolis.  Andrei Kirilenko appeared to have another setback in his struggle against back spasms and the team announced that Andray Blatche was going to miss some games for undetermined --and quite mysterious-- "personal reasons."  Neither was expected to make the trip.  Meanwhile, Jason Kidd had to react once again to a negative national story about his coaching, this one from Adrian Wojnarowski.  All this as the Nets move from Indiana to San Antonio to Oklahoma City (combined record 70-17) before returning to Barclays next Saturday to begin a four-game homestand.

This is a rematch of Monday night's debacle in Brooklyn when the Pacers blew out the Nets 103-86. In fact, the Pacers have blown out the Nets twice this season.

The season so far

What's the story with these two? Let's check it out:

2013-2014

Brooklyn

Indiana

Record

10-19 23-5

Pace

94.6 95.4

Offensive Efficiency

102.2 102.9

Defensive Efficiency

106.0 93.4

Offensive Rebounding percentage

23.4 24.4

Turnover rate

14.1 14.7

Assist rate

16.4 16.4

Rebound rate

48.5 52.2

Free throw rate

25.1 23.0

Effective Field Goal percentage

49.1 50.4

Opponent Effective Field Goal percentage

45.4 41.1

In short, the Nets are going from the NBA's worst team to its best in one night and with a gerry-built lineup that worked well against the Bucks, but is unlikely to work against the taller, quicker Pacers. Can the Nets expect to start the same lineup that faced the Bucks, with Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce at forwards or will Kidd revert to putting Mirza Teletovic on the court at tip-off?  No one is saying.  Teletovic continued his effective play at the stretch four Friday. For the third time in the last seven games, the big Bosnian hit at least five three pointers. The Pacers were able to shut him down at Barclays on Monday as he finished 0-of-5 from three and scored only 8 points. Other than getting past the Pacers defense, Teletovic will have another big challenge. He'll be matched against the wily David West. Although Teletovic's defense is improving, he still gets called for a lot of fouls.  Over the past three games, he's racked up 12 personals in 80 minutes, a rate of 5.4 per 36 minutes.

The other positive Friday was the pairing of Deron Williams and Shaun Livingston with the latter coming within three points of his career high of 23 while adding five rebounds and six assists. Can he do it again in a back-to-back? It's more likely D-Will, who played point guard to Livingston's shooting guard, will be asked to carry the offensive load vs. the Pacers. But if the Nets are going to have any chance, they're going to need a better effort from Joe Johnson. After a torrid four-game stretch where he shot 33-of-58, including the 37-point outburst vs. Philly, he was only 2-of-12 vs. Milwaukee.

Up front, don't look for any mercy from the deep, athletic Pacers squad. Expect to see more minutes for Reggie Evans and Mason Plumlee, who's an Indiana boy but likely to get a rude homecoming from the likes of Roy Hibbert.

The Pacers are playing their best basketball of the season, having won their last three games by an average margin of 25.8 points. And Danny Granger is coming back.  As the Indianapolis Star reports Saturday...

Since Granger made his season debut on Dec. 20, the Pacers have looked like a mighty force. That's not to credit Granger as the cause for the three-game winning streak – shooting just 23 percent from the floor, he has consistently preached patience about getting his conditioning and rhythm back. Still, the Pacers have moved Granger from the end of the bench to 20 minutes per game quite effortlessly.

Player to watch: Lance Stephenson

Stephenson loves torturing his hometown team. Other than a one game vs. the Cavaliers when he scored 22 points, the 6'6" Stephenson's best splits this season are against the Nets. He's averaging 20.5 points a game, including a career game of 26 Monday. In his two games vs. Brooklyn, he's shooting 60.7 percent overall and 55.6 percent from three, with five rebounds and six assists. His combination of athleticism and strength make him difficult to guard and his improving three point shooting could propel him into a top rank shooting guard.  And no, we're going to even think about what he, George Hill, Paul George and Danny Granger could do down the line.

From the Vault

There is no more memorable game in Nets-Pacers history than Game 5 of the first round in the 2002 NBA playoffs. Jason Kidd led the Nets to the win, but Reggie Miller provided the dramatics.

More reading: Indy Cornrows

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