Nets look to stop the bleeding against the Sacramento Kings

(AP Photo/Steve Yeater)
(AP Photo/Steve Yeater)
(AP Photo/Steve Yeater)

Nets look to stop the bleeding against the Sacramento Kings

Opponent: Sacramento Kings
Time: 6:00pm EST
Location: Barclays Center
Watch: YES Network

Without a timetable for the return of the Brooklyn Nets’ floor general Jeremy Lin, they’ll continue to rely on their unproven platoon of point guards to steer them out of a demoralizing losing streak. The team has now dropped six-straight games and they haven’t won in over two weeks. Worse yet, the Nets have only been competitive in one of those games, as they’ve lost five of them by at least 15 points. If the Nets have any hopes of squeaking into the playoffs this season, no matter how unlikely, they must start to reverse this trend with a win on Sunday against the Sacramento Kings.

During the Nets’ six-game losing streak, the team has lost to five teams that made the playoffs last year; but, more competitively, all of those opponents hold a record no worse than a game below .500 as well. Given the Nets’ need to rely on two rookie point guards and two combo guards to run the advanced motion offense, some of the team’s early struggles are forgivable. Unfortunately, patience is running thin with supports and the front office may have to look for reinforcements should the mistakes and injuries continue to pile up. With a pick swap in play for 2017, Sean Marks didn’t build this team with the intention of losing, so it’s imperative reverse the tide as quickly as possible.

The Kings haven’t been as bad as Brooklyn, sure, but they certainly don’t have the look of a playoff team in the Western Conference either. Despite continued dominance from DeMarcus Cousins — who is averaging a career high 27.8 points per game — Sacramento still has not found a winning formula, even with veterans like Darren Collison, Rudy Gay, and Omri Casspi in tow. In addition, the Kings’ point guard depth has underwhelmed as well, with Ty Lawson failing to recapture the form he showcased in Denver and summer signing Garrett Temple failing to live up to his exorbitant contract.

These two teams are struggling in the early going, but it’s early enough for either of them to reverse the course and make a playoff push if the chips fall correctly.

What to Watch for in Nets-Kings:

1. Cousins vs. Lopez

Both the Kings and the Nets feature their best player at the center position. Coincidentally, both teams are also in a position that could see their franchise big men traded at any point. Cousins has been utterly dominant this season, cementing himself as one of the league’s best at the position, and Lopez has reinvented his game while hoisting up a career-high 5.3 three-point attempts this season. The two cornerstones are potent offensive weapons but are not as adept defensively, so it’s certainly possible to see big games out of both of these former All-Stars.

2. No Rondae Hollis-Jefferson?

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson tweaked his ankle on Wednesday against the Boston Celtics and, subsequently, sat out against the Indiana Pacers during Friday’s shellacking. As of publishing, the small forward is listed as questionable and the Nets could be in trouble again defensively without him. With offensive weapons like Arron Afflalo and the aforementioned Gay, Brooklyn would be treading water without their best defensive stopper.

3. Motion offense vs. Kings’ defense

The Kings are coming off a loss to the Rockets that saw Houston put up an NBA-record of 50 three-point attempts. The Brooklyn Nets have not been shy about shooting the three-pointer this season either, as they attempt 34 of them a game this season. Currently, the Nets are shooting 39% on long balls during wins, but that number drops to just 30% during the team’s losses this season. The Kings possess a bottom-ranked team defense this season, so the Nets’ ability to win this game will depend on their ability to knock shots down from beyond the arc.