The Nets look for first win of New Year against the Pacers
The Brooklyn Nets’ season is rapidly devolving into an audition to decide who will stick with the team beyond this year. With Philadelphia picking up a win on Tuesday against Minnesota, the Nets now own the worst record in the entire NBA. However, the 76ers at least has discernible hope beyond this season, the consensus Rookie of the Year is Joel Embiid, and no. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons is still in tow. Brooklyn has no such prospect anywhere on the roster, with Sean Kilpatrick currently qualifying as the most likely young gun to be in the starting line-up on opening day next October.
Of course, the Nets are coming off of a loss on Monday to one of the Western Conference’s stronger squads, the Utah Jazz. Though the Nets scored just 89 points, the team looked competitive for most of the game, even holding at a tie after three quarters. The team unraveled in the fourth though, as younger teams tend to do, and Utah was able to close the game on a 31-19 run to seal the deal and hand the Nets their 25th loss of the season. At this point, moral victories are just as important as actual wins and there were plenty to take from Monday’s loss. Trevor Booker was active and effective, scoring 17 points and grabbing 15 boards in a game-high 34 minutes; Rondae Hollis-Jefferson contributed 11 points in 14 minutes; and Justin Hamilton was the only Net with a positive +/- differential in his 16 minutes of action.
Yes, this is what we cheer for at this point.
Thursday’s tilt in Indiana will not be easy, but it is far from unwinnable. Indiana has been dealing with their own dysfunction after an offseason that saw them acquire enough talent to be considered one of the most significant threats to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the conference. The additions of Jeff Teague, Thaddeus Young, and Al Jefferson were supposed to bolster Indiana’s offense, but the team has fallen to the middle of the pack. Worse yet, the switch from George Hill to Jeff Teague has made the Pacers backcourt vulnerable as the Teague-Monta Ellis tandem has been hemorrhaging points when sharing the floor together. Ellis has since been moved to the bench, but the Pacers are still just a .500 team, sitting at 18-18. Paul George will be, by far, the best player on the floor and Myles Turner should pose match-up problems for Brook Lopez, but if the Nets can get hot they can make this a ball game.
Here’s 3 Things to Watch for in Nets-Pacers:
1. Lin still injured…you know the drill
Nets fans can point to their league worst record of 8-25 and correctly point out that their marquee signing Jeremy Lin has been dealing with injuries all season, missing 21 of the Nets’ 33 games thus far. Losing the franchise point guard has made this season a painful one in Brooklyn, particularly because we will never know how the team would have done at full strength following a promising 4-4 start. Alas, that is life and the Nets do not have the proper depth behind him in the backcourt to compete on most nights. Isaiah Whitehead has played admirably this year filling in, but he’s a far cry from consistent in anything other than his hustle.
However, against Teague and Ellis, it’s not unfathomable that Whitehead could find some success tonight.
2. Phasing out the veterans?
Kenny Atkinson did not use Luis Scola on Monday and used Randy Foye for just ten spot minutes off the bench. Neither of these guys would fetch Brooklyn more than a late second round pick and are playing on one-year deals, so it is possible the Nets will begin to cut their minutes in favor of the future. Brook Lopez and Bojan Bogdanovic will be playing to boost any potential trade values, while guys like Isaiah Whitehead, Sean Kilpatrick, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will be looking to carve out a role with the franchise for the foreseeable future.
3. The season series is tied at 1-1
Brooklyn defeated Indiana in their home opener at the Barclays Center, but then dropped a 118-97 blowout on Black Friday. The Nets had dropped their sixth-straight after that loss in Indianapolis — currently, the team is on a three-game losing streak and have dropped 8 of their last 9 games. The season series between these two teams will conclude on February 3rd in Brooklyn.