After the All-Star break interrupted an eight-game road trip, the Nets (24-33) will begin a five-game home stand tonight against the Golden State Warriors (46-11). It’s their first game at Barclays Center since the 92-88 win over the Knicks on February 6, and the 24 days between home games marks the longest stretch of days without a home game in Nets franchise history.
The second leg of their road trip ended on a high note: a 104-94 victory over the Dallas Mavericks, led by 25 points from the resurgent Deron Williams. Despite losing close games in New Orleans and Houston, the Nets offense has found its groove since the All-Star break, averaging 104.4 points per game and shooting 46.4 percent.
The Nets won three of five games since the break, and are currently eighth place in the Eastern Conference playoff race with 25 games remaining. 16 of those games are in Brooklyn. While their 10-15 home record may not foreshadow late season success, the past two seasons’ “second halves” indeed could. In the past two years, the Nets have played significantly better after the break: 20-11 in 2013-14, and 18-11 in 2012-2013. A win against the NBA-leading Warriors would add a little more weight to that trend.
In Boston Sunday, the Warriors came back from a 26-point deficit to beat the Celtics 106-101, behind 37 points on 14-22 shooting from Stephen Curry. The win puts the Warriors 4.5 games ahead of Memphis for the best record in the Western Conference, and knocks Boston a full game behind the Nets for the final playoff spot in the East.
In their last meeting on November 13th, the Warriors overcame an early Nets lead before pulling away, led by Klay Thompson’s 25 points, winning 107-99 in Oakland. Jarrett Jack had a special night, scoring 23 points on a perfect 10-of-10 from the field off the bench. The Warriors, ranked first in the NBA in assists, notched 30 on their 41 field goals.
The Warriors are an explosive yet efficient offense, ranking second in the league in points per 100 possessions (109.5), field goal percentage (47.7%), and three-point percentage (38.9%). They don’t waste time either, leading the league in pace with 101.04 possessions per 48 minutes. The main concern, obviously, are the appropriately labeled “Splash Brothers” Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Curry, an MVP candidate and the reigning three-point contest champion, is currently averaging 23.9 points and 7.8 assists per game, shooting 41 percent from behind the arc. The contest runner-up, Thompson, is averaging 22.1 points per game, hitting threes at a 43.8 percent clip.
The offense in Golden State gets the headlines, but the defense has been just as good, if not better. They’ve held opponents to just 42.4 percent shooting and 97.7 points per 100 possessions, both tops in the NBA. First-year coach Steve Kerr has assisted in elevating the team’s production on both sides of the court, but his utilization of third year forward Draymond Green has been a difference-maker.
Predominantly a bench player his first two seasons, Green has started all 57 games this season, averaging 11.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 3.6 assists. More significantly, the 6’7”, 230 pound hybrid forward has become one the most effective and versatile defensive players in the league, and could be the frontrunner for the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award. Kerr has cited Green as an essential part of the future, labeling him the “heartbeat” of the team and declaring him “part of this franchise for the next 8-10 years.”
However, not everyone feels the same about the up-and-comer: after the Warriors loss to the Cavaliers on Thursday, TNT’s Charles Barkley noted he thought Green was too small and “not tough enough.” Green responded on Saturday: “A guy who’s not a champion can’t talk too much about championships, can he? I’m not sure how much he won anything in his career teamwise. Been to the Finals, but … for him to say that — they won’t win because he’s too small — maybe that’s why he didn’t win, because he was too small.”
As if the Warriors needed any more incentive.
Tip-off is at 7:30 P.M. E.S.T. at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.