The Nets (16-17) missed an opportunity to jump over the .500 mark last night with a lack-luster 88-84 loss to the Miami Heat. The offense struggled shooting 39.5 percent from the field and the defense had no solutions for the versatile offensive arsenals of Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade who combined for 51 of the Heat’s 88 points. Despite long stints of lackadaisical play and poor shot selection, the Nets still had a chance to draw even in the final minutes, but alas fell short as that big shot remained elusive.
Head Coach Lionel Hollins will look to get his team back on track in a hurry tonight against the Dallas Mavericks (25-10) who are riding in on a five game winning streak after beating the LeBron-less Cavaliers 109-90 in Cleveland last night. Monta Ellis, their leading scorer(20.7 points per game), led the NBA’s top ranked offense with 20 points amidst the Mavs’ 56.4 percent shooting attack including 12-26 from three point range. The Mavs are now 6-2 since the acquisition of Rajon Rondo and reside fourth in the Western Conference standings tied for the Southwest division lead.
Last season, the Nets took both meetings against the Mavericks, albeit in close, hard fought games that were decided late. On January 24th in Brooklyn, the Nets withstood a last gasp surge by the Mavs, but held on behind a career-high 34 points (including seven three pointers) from Mirza Teletovic and 18 points and 11 assists from Deron Williams off the bench.
The second matchup, on March 24th in Dallas, took a come-from-behind effort by the Nets, who were without Kevin Garnett (back spasms). Marcus Thornton scored 20 points off the bench, and Joe Johnson, who led the scoring with 22 points, made a clutch tying bucket with nine seconds remaining in regulation that inevitably sent the game to overtime. Despite a late barrage of three pointers by Ellis who once again lead the Mavs with 32 points, the Nets prevailed 107-104 for their fourth straight win.
The Mavs have gotten better since that last meeting thanks to an infusion of talent and a more mature Ellis who seems to have left his once erratic play in the past which is evident from his 46.3 shooting percentage and his 2.5 turnovers per game average, both stats his best since the 2007-08 season. Of course, the pre-season acquisitions of Tyson Chandler and Chandler Parsons along with the newly acquired Rondo, has propelled the Mavericks back to championship contending status.
Chandler, a big piece of the lone Mavericks’ championship in 2011, has been revitalized averaging 10.8 points per game on 67.3 percent shooting and 11.9 rebounds per game. Parsons, after signing a three year/$46 million dollar deal in the offseason, has been a terrific complimentary scorer to Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki (18.5 points per game) averaging 15.9 points.
Rondo, since joining the team mid-December, has averaged 14.0 points, 7.5 assists, and 3.9 rebounds in eight games and appears to be motivated to show he can return to the elite player he once was in his years playing with the Celtics; although his 13 point, 12 assist, 7 rebound performance Opening Night versus the Nets was pretty vintage.
The Mavericks have won all 10 of their road games against the Eastern Conference this season and 15-3 overall. The Nets, by comparison, are 5-5 against the West, but only 2-13 against teams with a winning record.
Deron Williams status for tonight’s game is uncertain after suffering what appeared to be an oblique strain which turned out to be just a cramp as he said post-game: “The doc said to treat it like a cramp. … He didn’t think there would be a lot of problems. Just drink a lot of electrolytes and it should be all right.”
Garnett could be a scratch tonight as well, as Hollins has leaned towards resting the 38 year old vet on the hind end of back-to-back games.
Tip-off 7:30 E.S.T. at Barclays Center, Brooklyn.