Ugly Nets (16-19) performances are piling up, and the 89-81 loss at home to the struggling Boston Celtics (12-21) on Wednesday night was perhaps the ghastliest. Between the 17 turnovers and the 40.5 percent shooting, the question now is if if the season is salvageable in the inferior Eastern Conference, where they’re currently ranked seventh. With the news yesterday that Deron Williams will miss significant time with torn rib cartilage, it’s not far-fetched to say that Lionel Hollins and his team are at the proverbial crossroads.
Nothing beats losing like winning, and tonight the Nets welcome in the lowly Philadelphia 76ers (5-29), a team they’ve beaten twice, with the hopes of sparking another turnaround to get their season back on track.
How good could tonight be? The Nets defense made history last time these two teams met, holding the 76ers to just 11 made two-point field goals, marking the fewest made in a game in NBA history (shot clock era, dating back to 1963-64). The 70 points were the fewest the Nets have allowed at Barclays Center since moving to Brooklyn. A win tonight would be their fifth straight win over the 76ers, and mark the Nets’ longest win streak over Philadelphia in franchise history.
One bright spot for the Nets lately has been the continued surge of Mason Plumlee. The 16-point, 12-rebound performance against the Celtics on Wednesday marked his third straight double-double and seventh overall on the season, and the six offensive rebounds were a career-high. In his last 10 games, Plumlee is shooting 70.5(!) percent from the field (55-78). He’s now seventh in the league in field goal percentage, ninth in the league in offensive rebound percentage (13.3%) and 18th in the league in total rebound percentage (17.3%).
While Plumlee and Joe Johnson have provided most of the offensive highlights for the Nets lately, the team defense has progressed as the season as rolled along. In the past 20 games, The Nets’ 96.1 opponent points per game ranks only behind the Atlanta Hawks (94.1). Part of that is Brooklyn’s slow pace, but they still rank top-10 in defensive efficiency since their last game against the 76ers. The Nets are 9-2 when they hold their opponent under 95 points; the two losses oddly coming the past two contests, against the Miami Heat and the Celtics.
The Nets will start their ninth back-to-back set of the season tonight, which means to expect Kevin Garnett’s minutes cut. Hollins recently mentioned he would also like to scale back Jarrett Jack & Johnson’s minutes in the hopes of keeping them fresh. While the timing isn’t ideal with Williams’s recent setback, the Nets did recall Markel Brown and Cory Jefferson from the D-League as reinforcements.
Tip-off is at 7:30 E.S.T., in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.