The Nets (8-20) snapped a five-game losing skid by beating the Chicago Bulls (15-11) 105-102 at the United Center on Monday. Brook Lopez (21 points, 12 rebounds, 3 blocks) and Thaddeus Young (16 points, 13 rebounds) led the offense, and 38 bench points — highlighted by Wayne Ellington’s 13 — carried the rest.
“We came in focused, we were energetic, and our bench did a great job of coming in keeping the energy high and responding to runs,” Lopez said. “We were all there for each other. We were pulling for each other.”
The aforementioned bench should get a boost, as point guard Shane Larkin was cleared to play tonight after missing four games due to a concussion suffered in practice. Many of Larkin’s minutes have been delegated to Donald Sloan, who’s averaged 5.8 points and four assists in the past four games. Larkin has been the Nets’ best three-point shooter at 47.1 percent, averaging 7.2 points and 3.6 assists in 18.9 minutes per game.
Tonight’s opponent is the 15-13 Dallas Mavericks, fresh off a 103-99 loss against the Toronto Raptors north of the border last night. The Raptors jumped out to an 18-point lead in the first half and out-rebounded the Mavericks 53-34 for the game, led by Bismack Biyombo’s 20. With a little over five minutes remaining, Head Coach Rick Carlisle sat his regulars and emptied his bench. Despite cutting the lead to four points in the final minutes, the head coach was not pleased with his team’s overall effort.
“We got our (tails) kicked at the beginning of the game,” Carlisle said postgame. “We knew they were going to come out hard. They did the exact same thing in Dallas. You know, they’re coming off a tough loss, and they’re very aggressive by nature. We really knew it. We talked a lot about it, and we didn’t handle it well. And frankly, it was embarrassing.”
To add injury to insult, ex-Nets franchise player and current starting point guard Deron Williams suffered a strained left hamstring that is expected to keep him out of tonight’s game at his old “stomping ground.”
Williams has made headlines in the past week calling out the media and fans for not having his back, so to speak, during his four and half-year tenure with the Nets. Apparently, his time in Brooklyn made him reevaluate his career status.
“It took a lot out of me, man, those three years. Some of the hardest in my life,” Williams said regarding his time in Brooklyn. “Made me question if I even wanted to play basketball when I was done with that contract.”
Well, it looks like he won’t be playing tonight, either.
It doesn’t end there. The Mavericks could be without another ex-Nets point guard, Devin Harris, who’s missed the last two games with a hamstring injury. Raymond Felton, averaging 9.5 points and 3.5 assists, should get the bulk of the point guard minutes if neither former Nets guard is good to go.
One more note for the frontcourt: Mavericks center Zaza Pachulia is eighth in the NBA in rebounding at 10.5 per game.
What to watch for: Boos. Boos. More Boos. But watch out for some clever signs from the home fans, ahem, welcoming back Deron Williams to Brooklyn.
Tip-off is at 7:30 EDT at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.