After a nice run that resulted in six of seven home wins, the Nets (7-18) subsequently lost three straight at Barclays Center, concluding with a 104-98 defeat to the Miami Heat on Wednesday night. The Nets had no answers for Dwyane Wade (28 points, 13-17 FG) and Hassan Whiteside (20 points, 13 rebounds) yet were still in striking distance in the final minutes. Down by five with about 35 seconds remaining, the Nets’ players and coaches failed to get on the same page allowing the Heat to eat the clock.
In what has become a running theme through the first 25 games, the lack of late-game execution has the team befuddled. “(When) they dribble(d) the clock out?” Brook Lopez asked. “I don’t know. Maybe it was just miscommunication. We can’t really have that, obviously. That kills you at the end of games. We’ve obviously got to be better in that area.”
The focus now shifts to the Indiana Pacers (15-9), winners of three of their last four games, including a 107-81 drubbing of the visiting Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday. Down by two at halftime, the Pacers outscored the Mavericks 62-34 in the second half led by 13 third-quarter points from Monta Ellis (19 points total). C.J. Miles, in the midst of his best season of his 11-year career, led the Pacers with 20 points off the bench.
While Paul George’s healthy return has provided the biggest boost to the team, the production from the lesser known role players like Miles and Jordan Hill have helped stabilize the Pacers this season. In 28.6 minutes per game this season, Miles is averaging a career-high 15.7 points on 45 percent shooting including 42.8% from three point range (well above his career avg. of 35.4%). The Pacers currently rank 2nd in the NBA in three point shooting at 38.8 pct. Jordan Hill, a high energy producer for the Lakers the past three years, has averaged 9.4 points and 7.6 rebounds in 23 minutes per game off the bench.
In their last trip to Indiana on March 21st, the Nets shot a season-high 61.3 percent from the field en route to a 123-111 win. It was the highest percentage from a Pacers opponent on their home floor since the Jason Kidd-led Nets shot 61.5 percent in April of 2002.
Because of the 2-1 advantage in their season series, the Nets (38-44) won the tiebreaker with the Pacers (38-44) and advanced to last year’s playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks. In what proved to be the pivotal and decisive game on March 31st, a 111-106 Nets win in Brooklyn, Brook Lopez led the way with 24 points and 11 rebounds in a week that garnered him Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors.
What to watch for: Where have you gone, Joe? In what is presumably his last season in Brooklyn, Joe Johnson his having the worst season of his terrific NBA career. In 34.6 minutes, the artist formerly known as Joe Jesus is averaging just 11 points per game and shooting a dreadful 36 percent (!) from the field. He’s failed to reach double digits in 12 of the Nets’ 25 games this season including six of his last eight games. In 80 games last season he failed to reach double digits in 17 games. Johnson’s name should pop up in trade rumors over the next two months, but the Nets really need the old Joe back soon if they want to achieve consistency.
Tip-off is at 7:00 EDT at Bankers Life Field House in Indianapolis, IN.