Nets continue road trip against Pelicans

Time: 8 p.m. EST

Where: Smoothie King Center

Watch: YES Network, FOX Sports GO

Listen: WFAN 101.9, 660 AM

The Nets are looking to end 2017 on a strong note. On Wednesday night, they’ll play the second half of a back-to-back against the New Orleans Pelicans. Last night, they lost a 109-97 game against the San Antonio Spurs. While the Nets were able to stay within arms’ reach of San Antonio throughout the game, the Spurs’ stars stepped up when needed. Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge scored 21 and 20 points respectively. Manu Ginobili looked impressive in the fourth quarter, slicing up the Nets’ defense and looking spry – despite being one of the oldest players in the NBA.

For the Nets, Caris LeVert continued his strong play off the bench with 18 points and 5 assists. Allen Crabbe showed signs of hope after spending recent games in a slump, going 4-7 from three. But still, that was not enough to defeat the Spurs. The Nets now stand 4-8 in the month of December.

The Nets will play the first of their two games against the New Orleans Pelicans this season. The Pelicans currently stand at 17-16 on the season, tied for seventh place in the loaded Western Conference. The Pelicans are returning home from a four-game road trip where they went 2-2. The team is led by their “big three” of Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and Jrue Holiday. New Orleans is looking to make a run in the playoffs this year – and do enough to impress impending free agent DeMarcus Cousins to stay in NOLA.

Here are three things to watch for in the Nets’ matchup against the Pelicans tonight.

Road woes?

The Nets stand at 12-21 on the season. Looking into their home-road splits tells an interesting story. They hold a 7-10 record at home and 5-11 record away from Barclays Center. They’ve committed three more turnovers (16.6) per game away than at home (13.3). The Nets’ defacto leader with D’Angelo Russell out, Spencer Dinwiddie, is averaging six more points at home than on the road.

The Nets will have to lock in during the third game of their five-game year-end road trip to finish the year on a solid note and change the narrative on the road.

Jarrett Allen, growing and grooving

Jarrett Allen continues to grow and impress despite his tender age of 19 and rookie status. Last night, Allen had a near double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds – including five offensive boards. He became the first Nets rookie since Brook Lopez to pull down at least five offensive boards in consecutive games. Allen also matched his career high.

It’s been impressive to see a player that was pegged as a “development project” on draft night to show such improvement early in the season. He’s become a rotation player for Brooklyn, averaging around 20 minutes per game since the trade of Trevor Booker.

Tonight’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans will be a test for the rookie. The obvious big man benchmarks in DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis will look to score at will against the Texas native Allen. Last night, Aldridge used his strength to power into the paint against Allen. The Pelicans (probably) have the best frontcourt in the entire NBA, so Allen will need to try to stop the almost inevitable bleeding.

Two bigs to dominate

Cousins and Davis are averaging 25.9 and 25.1 points per game respectively, the highest scoring big man duo in the league. They’ve played a huge part of New Orleans’ over-.500 record. The next two highest scoring Pelicans are Jrue Holiday (18.0 ppg) and E’Twaun Moore (13.0). Cousins and Davis both average over 10 rebounds per game as well to complement their scoring. The two even combine for 7.6 assists per game, showing how crucial they are to the Pelicans’ offensive firepower.

The Pelicans play at the seventh fastest pace in the NBA – so the Nets will have to match that as well. The Nets’ size issues are well documented throughout the season. The matchup of Tyler Zeller and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson against Davis and Cousins seems frustrating even on paper.

Even if the Nets decide to play small ball, the Pelicans’ two bigs are agile enough to keep up with the likes of DeMarre Carroll and Quincy Acy. If the Nets are looking to neutralize the Pelicans’ frontcourt, they’ll have to get hot from three or attack the basket and try to get one of the two in foul trouble. It’s pick your poison.

Pregame coverage starts at 7:30 p.m. on YES Network. Be sure to follow @TheBKGame on Twitter for live coverage of the game!

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