After a day off to rest and a practice day Thursday, the 18-22 Brooklyn Nets play their second straight home game with a chance to win their fourth straight, taking on the 25-19 Dallas Mavericks in Brooklyn. This is the first of two meetings between the Nets and Mavericks this season, and the Mavericks are the first Western Conference team the Nets have played since the Golden State Warriors on January 8th.
The Nets have caught fire in 2014, winning eight of their first nine games in the new year. They’ve beaten opponents during this three-game winning streak by an average of 17 points per game. They’ve semi-accidentally stumbled onto and then stuck with a winning formula, playing Kevin Garnett at center and Paul Pierce at power forward in a longball lineup. (No, not smallball. Longball.) They’ve also gotten Deron Williams back. Williams sat out a little over two weeks with a sprained ankle, undergoing platelet-rich plasma therapy treatment and cortisone shots in both ankles.
Williams, the franchise’s face, elected to come off the bench in his first two games back. It’s not clear when he’ll return to the starting lineup. But the way they’re playing these days, he’s free to take his time: the team’s starting lineup of Shaun Livingston, Alan Anderson, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett is undefeated together, putting up a 6-0 record together. (Pierce sat out yesterday’s practice ill. He’ll play.)
It may seem like long ago, but the Mavericks and Nets engaged in a few off-court battles in the past few years. The Mavericks were one of the dark-horse candidates attempting to acquire Dwight Howard, potentially blocking him from joining the Nets.
Then, when Williams had to make a decision about his future, he chose the Nets over the Mavericks, his hometown team. Williams said a number of factors went into his decision, including Cuban not attending the meeting he had with Dallas officials to film an episode of a televisino show. When asked about the decision, Cuban said: “Did you see that episode of ‘Shark Tank’ I filmed that day? It was amazing.”
Williams then did this:
Leading to this:
Odd blood aside, Dirk Nowitzki is Dallas’s long-running leader, the main option in their seventh-best offense. The seven-footer is a unique talent; if you’re a basketball fan you’ve probably seen Nowitzki’s wide array of jumpers, spin moves, and high-arcing one-foot fadeaways designed to keep opponents off-balance.
But Nowitzki’s not just a volume scorer; he’s an efficient one. Even at 35 years old, Nowitzki’s knocking on the door of a 50-40-90 season, shooing 47.9 percent from the field, 39.3 percent from three-point range, and 90.1 percent from the free throw line. Think you know how to stop him? You don’t; just look at his ridiculously symmetrical shot chart:
Go ahead, push him in any direction. Have fun.
Nowitzki’s flanked by the suddenly effective Monta Ellis, the jack-of-all-trades Shawn Marion, the paced but effective Jose Calderon, and former Nets great Vince Carter. The Mavericks also have two other former Nets: point guard Devin Harris and center Brandan Wright. The Nets, of course, have head coach Jason Kidd, who won an NBA championship with the Mavericks in 2011.
Tipoff at 7:30.