It’s a gloomy environment in Brooklyn, and head coach Lionel Hollins continues to search for a solution for the woes that have plagued this team throughout the year. After losing their fifth straight game in Miami Wednesday night, The Nets (25-38) travel down the turnpike to Philadelphia to play the 76ers (15-50). Even from afar, the lack of chemistry is apparent on the court and the practice of perseverance for the Nets has been a daunting exercise.
“You constantly have to work at it, and adversity is the first thing that can kill chemistry. You have a little adversity and something happens and it splits, and then you have to get it back,” Hollins said. “It’s a time-consuming thing to get chemistry, and then you have some success and you have a little more adversity and then it goes back again. It’s hard to define why.”
With just 19 games remaining, the Nets are still in striking distance for a playoff berth, but a turnaround does not appear imminent. The recent losing streak has coincided with vanishing production from Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. The two former All-Stars, looked upon for peak production, have shown little aggression, offensive awareness, or vocal leadership on the court during this recent dry spell. Over these past five games, Deron Williams has averaged only 11 points and 5.4 assists per game, shooting just 32 percent from the field. Joe Johnson’s play is even more alarming: 8.8 points on only 34.7 percent shooting.
The 76ers know a little about losing consistently, but come fresh off a 114-107 victory over the Sacramento Kings last night at Wells Fargo Center. Despite a monster game from Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (39 points, 24 rebounds), the 76ers, led by Robert Covington (24 points) and Nerlens Noel (16 points, 12 rebounds), outlasted the Kings, sparked by a 37-18 third quarter.
Noel, the 76ers’ sixth overall draft pick last year, has hit his stride the past seven games. He’s averaging 11.4 points and 12.4 rebounds a game. After missing the entire 2013-14 season recovering from knee surgery, Noel, along with this year’s third overall selection Joel Embiid, could pose a formidable inside duo for the 76ers for years to come if they can stay healthy.
After winning the first two meetings, the Nets dropped a heartbreaker at home to the 76ers on January 10th. Behind Covington’s 20 points and six steals, the 76ers overcame a 13-point third quarter deficit en route to a 90-88 win, which handed the Nets their fourth straight loss. The Nets would later lose three more games, in what was a season-high seven game losing streak.
Thaddeus Young, who played his first seven seasons in Philadelphia, will play his third game against his former team tonight. In the previous two games (wearing a Timberwolves uniform), Young averaged 13 points and 6.5 rebounds. After coming off the bench in his first eight games for the Nets, Young has started the past three in one of Coach Hollins’s ever-changing lineups.
What to watch for: The elusive Thomas Robinson. After he was claimed off waivers from the Denver Nuggets on February 24th, therefore nixing his previous plans to become a Nets forward, the former fifth overall pick has become a force off the bench for Brent Brown’s team. In nine games for the 76ers, Robinson has averaged 8.2 points and 8.7 rebounds in just 17.6 minutes per game. Just one more thing that has fallen away from Brooklyn.
Tip-off is at 7:30 EDT at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA.