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Brooklyn Nets vs. Dallas Mavericks preview: Kyrie Irving returns to Brooklyn

Kyrie Irving, who’s already missed 22 games this season, apparently won’t miss this one.

Brooklyn Nets v Toronto Raptors Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

That wasn’t the best night at the office. The Brooklyn Nets began a five game homestand with the Golden State Warriors the first team up. The Nets offense didn’t clock in and they suffered a rough loss in front of the hometown faithful.

The opponent tonight is trying to figure things out for themselves as well. It’s been a fairly inconsistent season for the Dallas Mavericks, but they can make up for it by going on a deep playoff run. They faced a shorthanded Philadelphia 76ers team last night and raced by them late in the game and came away with the win.

Where to follow the game

TNT is the place to be. Tip after 7:30 p.m. ET. No YES. No NBA TV.

Injuries

Cam Johnson left the game last night due to adductor tightness. He’s doubtful. Lonnie Walker IV left the game due to hamstring tightness, a recurring issue. He’s out. Ben Simmons will be back. Dorian Finney-Smith will not. With so many players down, the Nets have called up two-ways Jalen Wilson and Keon Johnson as well as first round pick Noah Clowney from Long Island. All three played well Monday night at Nassau Coliseum.

Dante Exum is out with right knee bursitis. Dereck Lively II is out with a nasal fracture. Kyrie Irving is probable (thumb,)

Of course, if either team makes a trade Tuesday, this section could change. The deadline is Thursday at 3:00 p.m. ET.

The game

Dallas won the first one.

Happy birthday to NetsDaily! Today is the site’s 20th birthday and it’s been a hell of a ride. It’s been a heck of a ride covering the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets, Long Island Nets, and New York Liberty. Here’s to 20 more!

So, it’s the second night of a back-to-back. And if you know anything about the NBA, especially the NBA in February with the trade deadline around the corner, you know that we’re probably not gonna see a full allotment of players that we would under normal circumstances. We’ll see who’s available to play as we draw closer to game time.

Ben Simmons should be available, and the Nets need his playmaking and ability to speed things up in the worst way. The Nets offense looks dry and without purpose when Simmons isn’t out there, and the goal for the Nets is to ensure he stays healthy and is as productive as possible. With the team dealing with injuries, we’ll see if Jacque Vaughn pushes him past the 20 minute plateau.

Assuming he plays, we get to watch an all timer at work. Luka Doncic is still doing everything, and he’s doing everything incredibly well. The Don is

  • first in minutes
  • second in scoring
  • second in assists

But also, second in turnovers. Doncic is one of the most dynamic and dominant players in the league and can carry an offense all by himself. It’s something he’s gotten used to, and every time he’s on the court, he controls the game and moves at his pace. It rarely looks like he’s been sped up on the court, and he’s able to do anything he wants against any defense he sees. The Nets defense is a hell of a lot better than the Atlanta Hawks’, so it’s unlikely he goes for 73 points tonight.

Prior to getting kicked out, Nic Claxton had himself a heck of a night. He had 15 points, five rebounds, an assist, and seven blocks in 32 minutes. Clax is all over the court and with the Nets even more banged up, the team will have to count on him even more. The Mavs are the second worst rebounding team in the league this season and with Lively out, look for Claxton to make a major impact in this one.

Player to watch: Kyrie Irving

It didn’t have to end like that. That’s the feeling I can’t shake now that Kyrie Irving is back in Brooklyn since the trade last February. Irving’s three and a half seasons were marred by controversy, extended absences, and ultimately, defeat. He got asked about coming back here last night, and said the following:

“I think we just gotta normalize [this]. Obviously there’s some history there with certain teams. There’s a competitive edge that you have going into each game when you play against your former team. It’s not uncommon. It’s been happening for years. I was just saying that to say that to say let’s just normalize the emotions that go into these games instead of making it such a big deal,” Irving said,

Irving also chastised the media for their role in “revenge” games.

“It’s nothing deeper to look into. We need to do a better job of not making it into something else other than sports,” Irving added. “We just need to normalize [the fan reactions]. It’s basketball. Fans are gonna be fans. Some people don’t love you, some people are not gonna like you [now] that you left. But it’s all part of the overall conglomerate that we are as a league.”

I asked SJBasketball8 of the 21 Going on 77 podcast about what Irving’s been up to, and she said:

“Kyrie’s play has been as great as advertised since he arrived in Dallas. He has been incredibly efficient and has provided much needed playmaking beside Luka, as well as leadership. I will admit, I was not a fan of the fit between Luka and Kyrie defensively as I thought it would be difficult for the Mavericks to put adequate defenders around them with the limited assets they had. I didn’t believe they could ultimately win a championship together but now I won’t rule it out if the Mavericks somehow find a way to get the right pieces.

“Offensively, I think they are getting accustomed to playing with each other and it has been steadily improving. Kyrie just adds another dynamic option at the guard spot that has been missing since Jalen Brunson left for New York.

“One thing that has been a bit disappointing is his injuries as he hasn’t been extremely available. This has been a story throughout his career though so this should’ve been expected. Unfortunately, it will be hard to win a championship with a less than available co-star.”

Irving hasn’t played 65 games in a season since 2018-19 when he played 67 for the Celtics.

That’s something fans across the NBA have gotten used to unfortunately. Irving left under incredible hostile circumstances, so it’ll be interesting to see how he’s received by the fans at Barclays Center tonight.

Aside from that, he’s just getting back form a thumb sprain that kept him out of action for a few weeks. He made his return last night, and turned up after the break as his 16/5/5/1 after intermission powered the Mavs to the win. When he’s on the court, he’s one of the most gifted and dynamic scorers the game of basketball has ever seen. It’s just a matter of keeping him on the court.

Mikal Bridges had a rough night and a heavy workload last night. He played 42 minutes last night, which was a season high for him in regulation. Due to the injuries and decisions made by the coaching staff, the Nets only went seven deep last night. Even with that, the Nets are going to need the dynamic duo to get their shots back. Bridges and Cam Thomas went a combined 9-36 from the field and 1-13 from three point range last night. Brooklyn’s offense can barely survive when one of them is struggling. When they both are, life becomes even harder for the Nets. Brooklyn will need them to maintain that aggressiveness, get to the cup, and keep the pressure on Dallas.

From the Vault

The good Kyrie moments? They were really friggin’ good.

More reading: Mavs Moneyball, SB Nation NBA, Nets Republic, Mavs Fan For Life