And just like that, the Brooklyn Nets are in sole possession of the East’s four-seed, and just a game-and-a-half outside the three-seed. All it took was a 6-1 home-stand. Those seven games were hardly pretty; outside of the first half of the Raptors game, Brooklyn was far from dominant.
That was to be expected. The Nets - these Nets - seem to be obsessed with playing the same game over and over. We’ve all been there. For me it was NBA 2k11 - the Jordan Challenges were awesome. For Brooklyn, it’s a narrow victory that tastes like mouthwash - not filet mignon. They went back to it against Atlanta, who to their credit, despite the current hoopla surrounding their team, put up a real fight.
But when the team finishes with collective 54/43/81 shooting splits and its two best players combine for 67 points, you’d hope to avoid a nail-biter. Brooklyn found a way to commit 20 turnovers in less than three quarters, though, so that’s what we got. The bottom line, though, is that the Nets capped off this 6-1 stretch with a 120-116 win over an Atlanta Hawks team missing three starters.
How many times do you care to qualify wins, though? As Kevin Durant said postgame, wins aren’t easy to come by in the NBA. But it’s nearly all Brooklyn has been doing lately, even with a paper-thin bench. The return of Ben Simmons, though he was just average, boosts that depth a little, as will the imminent return of Yuta Watanabe. Nic Claxton’s absence - he was a late game scratch - wiped out 30 minutes of paint protection and all-around energy.
So a win is a win, and the home-stand was a clear success. Brooklyn’s next opportunity to get a win is already knocking at the door, with a visit to the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night. Brooklyn and Indiana have already faced off twice this season with both sides winning a game.
Where to follow the game
YES Network and the YES App have the telecast, and WFAN-FM has the radio call for this one. All local, with a 7:00 p.m. ET start-time.
We finally have an updated official injury report and it is a doozy. Eight players are out, including the “Big Three” of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons as well as Joe Harris, Nic Claxton and Royce O’Neale, all of whom have started in recent games. It’s KD’s first missed game of the season...
Well, that’s one way to reduce minutes.
Of the eight, four — Seth Curry, Kevin Durant, Joe Harris, Ben Simmons and T.J. Warren are classified “injury management,” meaning load management/rest. One, Royce O’Neale, is out for “personal reasons” while the remaining two, Kyrie Irving (left adductor — groin — tightness) and Nic Claxton (right hamstring tightness) are due to injury. No word yet on the extent of Irving’s injury. Jacque Vaughn diminished the extent of Claxton’s injury both pre- and post-game Friday.
That leaves Cam Thomas, Kessler Edwards, David Duke Jr., Patty Mills, Markieff Morris, Day’Ron Sharpe, Edmond Sumner, Yuta Watanabe, and Alondes Williams as active. Williams has been troubled by his own adductor strain. He did not play for Long Island on Friday night. Should he play, the Nets will be the last team in the NBA to play a rookie this season. Fashioning a starting lineup out of that group will be interesting, but “next man up...”
Indiana is also playing the second night of a back-to-back, having beaten the Wizards, 121-111. On Friday, Myles Turner, Isaiah Jackson, and James Johnson were questionable. Only Turner played, but those three are all cases to watch as we approach game-time. So too is Chris Duarte, who has missed a month with an ankle sprain, but is expected back any day now. That day could be Saturday, vs. the Nets.
Nets fans are quite familiar with the Pacers at this point - this is already the fourth matchup between Brooklyn and Indiana - and both teams played on Friday night. We’ll keep it brief.
The Nets can’t afford to turn the ball over on Saturday; it starts there. Indiana plays a guard-heavy rotation that loves to run and shoot threes. It’s hard enough to defend Tyrese Haliburton operating out of a high pick-and-roll, spraying the ball around or creating for himself. 21 turnovers, which Brooklyn finished with against Atlanta, would make the defensive challenge that much harder, as we’ve already seen vs. Indiana, the third-best transition offense in the league, when accounting for volume and effectiveness, per Cleaning the Glass. They run hard, often, and smartly.
Brooklyn, coming off a back-to-back with extra-heavy legs -- Watanabe is just returning -- must find a way to slow the game down. They will not be able to win a track meet, but in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, they can win an Old West gunfight: slow and deliberate.
Past that, if Markieff Morris or Day’Ron Sharpe, who logged six minutes vs. Atlanta, plays, they have to contribute on the defensive glass; all other contributions must stem from there. It may be a Cam Thomas night as well/ Like, a real Cam Thomas night, where he takes 10-12 shots. Patty Mills may get burn, after seven straight DNPs, and hopefully he adds more 3-pointers than allows on the other end.
No doubt Brooklyn has a challenge in front of them, as the visit the team just half-a-game behind them in the standings. But as they embark on a four-game road trip, perhaps the fact that those four games take place over nine days (with a three day break in the middle of it) inspires them to go all out vs. Indiana in what is currently a preview of a fun 4-5 playoff matchup.
From the Vault
Oh yeah. Definitely that.
For more reading, got to Indy Cornrows, our Pacers sister site on SB Nation.
- Brooklyn Nets Game Notes - Brooklyn Nets
- Indiana Pacers Game Notes - Indiana Pacers
- After strong homestand, Nets aim to even score with Pacers - STATS
- Nets’ lineup instability in full force - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- The Nets’ atrocious rebounding is lowering their ceiling — how can they fix it? - Brian Lewis - New York Post Sports+
- Odd-couple bond between Haliburton and Hield drives Pacers’ chemistry - Dustin Dopirak - Indianapolis Star