Nets (finally) end their lengthy road trip tonight in Philladelphia

Andrea Bargnani (9) defends Philadelphia 76ers' Jahlil Okafor (8) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015, in New York. The Nets won 100-91. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Andrea Bargnani (9) defends Philadelphia 76ers' Jahlil Okafor (8) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015, in New York. The Nets won 100-91. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Opponent: Philadelphia 76ers
Location: Wells Fargo Center (Philadelphia)
Time: 7:00 PM EDT
Watch: YES Network, Fox Sports GO app

The season is beginning to wind down and the Nets (18-46) are literally in their homestretch of their 19 day, 9 game circus road trip. The team has won three of the eight games on the trip, but has held their own against strong opponents in losses (Portland, LA Clippers, Toronto). Tonight, they’ll try to end their trip on a high note against the bottom feeding Philadelphia 76ers.

To say that Head Coach Brett Brown’s team is having an awful year is an understatement. After starting the season 0-18, the 76ers have slogged through the season with ineptitude, culminating in their latest losing streak. On Wednesday night, the 76ers committed 18 turnovers, shot 40.7 percent from the field, and yielded 61 first half points en route to a 118-104 loss at home to the Houston Rockets — their 13th straight loss.

The 76ers defense has taken a turn for the worse over the last 16 games, yielding 114.1 points per game. For the season, they rank 28th in opponents points per game (107.3), which doesn’t help when you have the lowest scoring offense in the league at 96.7 points per game either. Coach Brown’s mindset has not wavered from the task at hand, however:

“What you can do, day-to-day, is build a culture, build standards, build habits. This is how you grow a winning culture. It’s behavioral so much of it.” Brown continued, “That’s where my head’s at, way more than when’s the star coming. That’s the build it brick-by-brick thing that I saw, I lived it, I can taste it, I can see it, and it’s hard to do that. You take your eye of the prize chasing all the time, then you’re going to miss what’s most important. That’s the foundation, when your building gets real rickety.”

The aforementioned rickety foundation has taken a hit in the form of a bruised shin for the 76ers’ third overall pick and key building block, Jahlil Okafor. The 6’11” star out of Duke University has missed his last five games and will not play tonight versus the Nets. Okafor, one of the 76ers few bright spots this year, is averaging 17.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Brook Lopez, coming off a 35 point, seven block performance against Toronto on Wednesday, should benefit from the absence of Okafor in a big way.

This will be the third of four meetings between the Nets and 76ers and the first of two this week as they’ll play again in Brooklyn on March 15th. Their last meeting was somewhat of a low point in the Nets’ season: losing in Philadelphia 103-98 on February 6th. The inside duo of Okafor (22 points, 17 rebounds) and Nerlens Noel (18 points, four steals, three blocks) proved to be too much for the Nets, not to mention rookie T.J. McConnell’s career-high 17 points starting for the injured Ish Smith.

Point guard Kendall Marshall was held out of last game with an illness and is questionable to play tonight.

What to watch for: Thaddeus Young played his first seven years in the NBA with Philadelphia, averaging 16.4 points and 6.6 rebounds. In three games against the Sixers as a Net, Young has averaged 20.3 points on 55.8% FGs and 10 rebounds in 35.7 minutes. In their last meeting, Young tallied 22 points (all in the second half) and 10 rebounds in 39 minutes. Young has already matched a career-high in double-doubles this season (25) and is just three rebounds shy of his career-high in total rebounds in a season (571), which he accomplished in the 2012-2013 season.

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