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Nets begin four game road trip in Dallas vs. Mavericks

San Antonio Spurs v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

Needs improvement. The Brooklyn Nets played host to the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night and had a great chance to get a statement victory against the team occupying second place in the East. Unfortunately for the Barclays crowd, the home team didn’t get it done and took a tough loss. They’ll be on the road for a few days before coming back to the hometown crowd.

The opponent tonight will be the Dallas Mavericks. Jason Kidd is coaching his former team (sound familiar?) and they are trying to figure things out. They took a loss at home on Saturday night to the Memphis Grizzlies which dropped them back to .500.

Where to follow the game

TNT on TV. WFAN on radio. Tip after 7:30.

Injuries

Joe Harris is out. James Johnson missed Saturday’s game with left shoulder soreness, but he’s available tonight. Nothing new on Kyrie Irving other than his “circle” says he remains reluctant to get the vaccine.

Luka Doncic missed Saturday’s game due to left ankle soreness. He’s listed as questionable for that and a left thumb sprain. Kristaps Porzingis has missed the last two games with a left knee contusion. He’s listed as probable for tonight. Willie Cauley-Stein missed Saturday due to personal reasons and is out again tonight. Tim Hardaway Jr is listed as questionable with a right knee contusion.

The game

The Mavs find themselves in an interesting spot. They appear to be a decent playoff team, but nothing more. Over at Mavs Moneyball, Josh Bowe wrote the following:

This roster — what is the vision? Where is this Mavericks team going? Hardaway is 29, Maxi Kleber is 29, Reggie Bullock is 30, Dwight Powell is 30, Finney-Smith is 28. The team owes one more first round pick to the Knicks in 2023, the 2020 draft returned zero useful pieces and Jalen Brunson is the only young player that feels like he could fetch anything worthwhile in a trade, yet he’s also one of the most important players on the team and feels indispensable. The Mavericks have struck out on their last three major offseason acquisitions — what if they miss on dealing Brunson? It’s hard to think about where this Mavericks team would be without Brunson.

As the Mavs try to build around their generational talent, they have to figure out which players best suit him. It’s not very often you land a player as good as Doncic. It’s up to the team to figure out what to do to ensure he has the best chance of succeeding.

When you’re on the road after a tough loss, you’ve got to move on quick and get your rhythm back.. After the Bulls loss, Kevin Durant talked about his team’s play and said:

“We just gotta go out there and play with some force and confidence, like we want to win and understand it’s a long game and just stick with the game plan. It’s a bad, it’s a tough loss... We didn’t take advantage of being up nine, 10 points. We just let them stay in the game, and we were supposed to just bury them.”

It’s been a somewhat consistent theme with the Nets this year. They get up by a good amount and sometimes take their feet off the gas and allow teams to make it closer than it needs to be. Even with the Nets off to their best start in franchise history, there’s still plenty of room for them to get better.

For Durant, that means cashing in on a few more of the shots he gets. KD was a quality 12-26 against the Bulls, but only got to the free throw line twice on Saturday.

When the Nets are done here, they’ll make a trip to Houston to play the Rockets on Wednesday night.

In WNBA news, the New York Liberty are looking for a new head coach after they and Walt Hopkins parted ways. Read about it here.

As a team, the Mavs don’t allow that many three pointers (second fewest in the NBA), but teams have made 36.5 percent of their attempts, fifth highest in the NBA. This is a welcome sight for a Brooklyn team that has gone cold from deep. In their last nine games, the Nets have been under 33 percent from deep seven times. And as I’m sure you figured out, that coincides with Joe Harris being out. The Nets offense could use some more juice and for the guys that are here, they need to cash in when they get good looks.

Dallas does a good job of taking care of the ball, so the Nets may not get as many opportunities in transition as they’d like. The Nets have been one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA this season, and luckily for them, the Mavs have been worse. Opportunities abound.

Player to watch: Tim Hardaway, Jr.

Assuming Doncic is out or limited, Hardaway Jr will be the focal point of Kidd’s offense. He moved back to the bench recently but is still third on the team in scoring. Hardaway Jr is a microwave scorer off the bench and he can provide some punch in the event the Mavs offense starts off slowly tonight.

James Harden will look to get himself back on track. He had a rough two game set over the weekend, but if you’re looking for a positive from Saturday, he didn’t turn it over in 40 minutes of play. Harden is still trying to put all the pieces together, but it’s still early (ish) so he does have time to consistently return to his Top 75 form. Harden still draws a ton of attention and he’s a good enough passer to find the right player open. A good game tonight will help wash away Saturday and get this road trip off to a good start.

From the Vault

Those Mavs vs. Sacramento Kings playoff series from the mid 2000s were fun as hell

More reading: Mavs Moneyball