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Kyrie Irving makes season debut in Indiana

New York Knicks v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

That homestand was not one befitting a championship contender. The Brooklyn Nets sought to salvage their three game homestand against the Memphis Grizzlies. Unfortunately for the people at Barclays and Nets fans watching at home, the team decided to give them a whole bunch of nothing for three quarters and got smoked as a result. The loss was their third in a row and now the team has to get it back in gear ASAP.

The opponent tonight will be the Indiana Pacers. It’s been a rocky year for Rick Carlisle and the Pacers, but they hope that brighter days are on the horizon. They were in MSG last night to take on the New York Knicks, and lost by 10. The L was their fifth in a row.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN on radio. Tip after 7:30.

Injuries

Joe Harris is out. LaMarcus Aldridge who admits he has lingering effects of COVID has been cleared to play. He missed the Grizzlies game with right foot soreness. One other name is missing from the report. More on that later.

Caris Levert, Malcolm Brogdon, Goga Bitadze, Isaiah Jackson, Chris Duarte, Jeremy Lamb and Kelan Martin are in COVID protocols. TJ Warren is in it too and he’s still recovering from a left navicular fracture. TJ McConnell is out due to right wrist surgery.

The game

Brooklyn won the first game in October. Their next and final meeting will be in April.

I need someone to explain to me, in detail, why the Nets went with an eight=man rotation for much of Monday night’s game. Steve Nash mentioned in the post game that the last group of players out of COVID protocols needed to ramp up, but come on. It’s the beginning of January, the roster is about to change in a major way, and you’ve made a point publicly of speaking about the high minute tolls on your stars. And you saw how fun and bouncy the kids were when they got some run in the fourth quarter! There’s a perfect mix to be had when it comes to utilizing the full roster and it’s something the coaching staff needs to be more mindful of going forward. Cam Thomas was part of successful closing lineups against the Mavericks and Hawks and played a heck of a fourth quarter on Monday. He ought to see some earlier playing time tonight and should be more involved in the rotation.

Prior to Monday’s game, our old friend, John Schuhmann, wrote this over at NBA.com:

The starts of games continue to be more of an issue than the end. The Nets have had first-quarter deficits of at least eight points in four of their last five games, and only three teams have been worse in the first six minutes of the opening period. Related to that, the Nets continue to be better with only one of their two vaccinated stars on the floor (plus-8.6 per 100 possessions in 681 total minutes) than they are when Kevin Durant and James Harden are out there together (plus-2.5 in 748 minutes).

That’s the thing. It doesn’t matter who you play, you can’t keep falling behind by double digits early and having to fight out of it. It’s not sustainable and winds up putting greater strain on your big guns every night. Start strong, finish strong.

What do you do when you feel like you can do more, but your bosses don’t think you can do it? That’s where Pacers big Myles Turner finds himself these days. He spoke about that with The Athletic in December and said:

“I’ve been given many roles in the years that I’ve been here, and I feel like I’ve been able to produce at a high level in the roles I’ve been given. I’ve shown that I can do the things they ask me to do, and I think it’s time to put that all together and be a more prominent night-in, night-out guy on the offensive side of the ball instead of someone who is asked to be a floor spacer and hide in the shadows.”

and

“I’ve settled for being just a floor spacer who runs up and down and sits in the corner all game and isn’t active because I thought I was doing what was best at the time. I wasn’t looking out for myself and was looking out for the team. But I realized that looking out for myself in turn is looking out for the team, so I’ve flipped my mindset going forward.”

Dang. At a certain point, the Pacers have to turn him loose and give him an opportunity to fully explore his complete offensive game. At the same time, he needs to actively seek out scoring opportunities when they’re presented to him.

Hey, Born Ready’s back in the league. Lance Stephenson was on the Hawks on a ten day deal, but is back in familiar territory with Indy on a ten day deal. Some guys just fit perfectly in certain places, and Indy is just the place for him.

We talked about one Pacer big, and the other one is in the rumor mill as well. Indy has to figure out what to do with Domantas Sabonis and how he fits with Turner. He played 39 minutes but had his struggles as he went a season worst 5-12 from the free throw line. In the meantime, Nic Claxton will look to keep him off the boards. Clax had some trouble dealing with Steven Adams on Monday, but he’s been great since coming back. Brooklyn got overwhelmed on the boards Monday and it’s going take a total team effort to tussle with Sabonis and complete defensive possessions.

The Nets have asked a lot of Patty Mills, and he’s delivered for the most part. He had his worst outing of the season on Monday as he went scoreless in 30 minutes. He’s averaging a career high in minutes and field goal attempts a game and has been great by and large. That said, he’s someone that could benefit from a reduced workload going forward. With the roster getting close to full strength, the coaching staff might have the opportunity to help him out some.

Ultimately, the success of the Nets will rely on James Harden and Kevin Durant. They both had terrible games on Monday and will have to get it back on track in order for the Nets to be competitive. KD mentioned in his postgame that he was looking for his shot too much early and that threw things off some. Harden wasn’t playing at his faster pace on Monday so he should be looking to attack early and often against a tired, struggling Pacers team. The Nets can’t afford to overlook anybody so the big guys will have to come out strong in order for Brooklyn to get back on the good foot.

Player to watch: Kyrie Irving

When we last saw Kyrie Irving in an NBA game, it ended in disaster as an ankle injury took him out of the Bucks playoff series where the Nets ultimately fell short. Since then, he’s recovered from that injury, but has yet to suit up since he’s not vaccinated and not eligible to play in Brooklyn. It’s a long ass story and one that we’ll continue to discuss as COVD runs wild and this season progresses. He ought to be vaccinated and not just for basketball x NYC mandate purposes, but that’s a conversation for another time. The players are happy to have him back, the fans most definitely feel the same way, and as far as viewership goes, he’s one of the most spellbinding players we’ve ever seen so he’ll definitely increase the fun factor. And he’s coming back to a team that needs a jolt of energy ahead of

With Irving back, he ought to slide into the two guard spot immediately. He gives the Nets another ace shot creator and someone who can heat up at a moment’s notice. He’ll lessen the workloads for Harden and Durant while giving them an A++ scorer to help space things out more. The Nets get another elite ballhandler that can attack downhill and generate clean looks every time he passes half court.

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