Don’t ask us. Ask Kyrie Irving about the importance of the next 13 days.
Irving described the Nets’ upcoming seven-game homestand “essential for our season” after Friday’s loss to the Pacers in Indiana. “It’s not a hard basketball game for us. We have the talent offensively, but defensively and offensive boards, they’re still going to be something we bring up day-to-day.”
Brooklyn opens that homestand at 3:00 p.m. ET Sunday and after their spotty record on the road in recent weeks, Barclays will look good. And despite everything, the Nets are selling out their home arena, filling up 99.7% of the seats in the team’s eight home games. Seven of the eight have been sellouts, one a record for the arena.
“I’m looking forward to just being in front of our fans. But more important, being in front of our home environment and being able to flourish out there,” said Irving.
The Pacers game, although best forgotten, proved once again that the team and its players are inconsistent ... in the extreme. They go five straight games — four of them wins — without allowing 100 points, then two games later, let the Kings rack up 153 points in the franchise’s worst defensive performance ever. They play three teams without their three best players and can only win only two of them. The team’s best players face the same inconsistency with Irving and Kevin Durant having “quarters.” We don’t even want to talk (yet) about Joe Harris. At least Ben Simmons is showing most (but quite not all) of what fans want to see.
The Blazers on the other hand are suffering from the loss of Damian Lillard. He has been out with a calf strain and they’ve won only one of their last five — Friday night vs. the Knicks at The Garden.
Where to follow the game
It’s all local, with YES Network and the YES App telecasting the game. WFAN-FM once again has the radio call, with tip set for 3:00 p.m. ET in downtown Brooklyn.
For the Nets, Yuta Watanabe (hamstring) remains out, missing his fourth straight game. T.J. Warren who remains out (foot) but is getting closer. He’s doing 4-on-4 and 5-on-5 with coaches and players. That’s it, at least for the moment.
Portland will be missing Lillard as well as Gary Payton II (abdomen) and Keon Johnson (hip). Forward Drew Eubanks (back) is questionable and Justise Winslow (ankle) is probable.
We talked earlier about the Nets’ inconsistency. As Kyrie Irving said of the homestand, it’s time to build “great habits,” particularly in offensive rebounding and perimeter defense. He’s right.
The Nets have had some bad offensive rebounding games of late —15 OREB in the last three games — and are 29th in the NBA going into this afternoon’s game. In perimeter defense, they’re only one rank higher at 28th. Last year, for the season, they finished seventh. It’s a big problem.
There are indeed plenty of excuses for all of this, including the 9-11 record. Five players are coming off surgery and their recoveries have not been uniform. Joe Harris does not look good at all. Seth Curry has needed some injury management games but also had two huge ones. Edmond Sumner has been great at getting to the rim but his 3-point prowess is like a lot of things a work-in-progress. T.J. Warren still a ways away after missing two years. Ben Simmons, of course, had nine bad games then six terrific ones. Integrating them all has been a challenge.
Not to mention that the Nets dumped Steve Nash early and Kyrie Irving once again became embroiled in a controversy, this one involving antisemitic material, that cost him and his team eight games. Now, sleeping in their own beds — and with fewer aches and pains — should give them an opportunity to get out of the swamp. And if at the end of the homestand, they’re not doing better, the opening of trade season — December 15 — will be less than a week away.
For the Blazers, as usual, it’s about Lillard’s health. Now 32 years old he’s missed three straight and is expected to miss at least another week. Of the 19 games the Blazers have played, he’s missed eight. When the Nets beat the Blazers, 109-107, in a very satisfying win out on the west coast, Portland was leading the West with a 10-4 record. Since then, they’ve dropped to 11-8 and fifth in the West. As bad as the Nets have been on the offensive boards of late, the Blazers have been lacking in defensive rebounding. So maybe a standoff? Portland will likely give the Nets trouble out on the perimeter, ranking eighth overall in the league with more than enough 3-point shooters to make good switching imperative.
Even with Lillard and the others out, the Blazers still have the steady and often explosive Jerami Grant, the wunderkinds Anfernee Simons and Shaedon Sharpe and big big man Jusuf Nurkic. They are a dangerous team.
Player to Watch
When Damian Lillard finally decides to hang them up, the Trailblazers will finally have an heir apparent in Anfernee Simons, the 6’3” combo guard who is having a breakout year. He’s up to 23.6 points a game for the season on shooting splits of 43/37/90. In the last five games, he’s averaging nearly 27 points and on Friday night at the Garden, Simons went wild, finishing the game with 38 points in an overtime win...
He wasn’t the high scorer. Jerami Grant finished with 44 but Simons, still only 23, is coming into his own. In the overtime period, Simons hit three 3-pointers to put the game away fast.
Simons has improved each year he’s been in the league, starting at age 18. He’s already proved himself on one New York stage this weekend. Now, he gets to do it another only two days later.
So it’s likely to be Simons vs. Simmons this afternoon.
From the Vault
At Bubble’s End. The Nets had a great time in the “Bubble.” With Jacque Vaughn in his first gig as Nets head coach, they pulled off some surprising wins, but it all ended at Disney World with a Damian Lillard 42-point game in the play-in tournament. But it took some doing...
Caris LeVert had 37 in that one.
Further reading: go to Blazers Edge, our Trailblazers sister site on SBNation.
- Brooklyn Nets Game Notes - Brooklyn Nets
- Portland Trailblazers Game Notes - Portland Trailblazers
- Blazers looking to stay aggressive against Nets - STATS
- Brooklyn hosts Portland after Grant’s 44-point game - AP
- Nets’ long homestand provides opportunity for season turnaround - Mark W. Sanchez - New York Post
- Joe Harris’ Nets role beginning to shrink during shooting slump - Mark W. Sanchez - New York Post
- Nets’ upcoming homestand will be a pivotal litmus test - Laura Albanese - Newsday
- Portland Trail Blazers at Brooklyn Nets: Game preview, time, TV channel, how to watch free live stream online - Aaron Fentress - The Oregonian