There is really no figuring out this team.
After a competitive five-game road trip, followed by a big win over the league-best Golden State Warriors at home, the Nets (25-36) have dropped three uninspired home games in a row. The latest disappointment came on Sunday night against the upstart Utah Jazz. After a back and forth three quarters, the Nets were unable to stave off the Jazz offense in the fourth quarter before losing 95-88. The Nets did shoot 50 percent, including 8-for-15 from behind the arc, but failed to match the Jazz’s intensity in the second half.
Deron Williams and Joe Johnson stood out, and not in a good way. Williams, who vanished in the fourth quarter against Phoenix last Friday, scored just six points on 2-5 shooting with four assists in 30 minutes. Johnson scored just nine points, giving him a grand total of 27 in his past four games. If there’s a sense of urgency simmering within the teams’ two most notable players, it hasn’t revealed itself on the basketball court in this troubling stretch.
Tonight, the Nets will welcome in the New Orleans Pelicans (35-29), fresh off a 114-103 win in Milwaukee over Jason Kidd’s Bucks last night. Anthony Davis tied a career-high with 43 points (17-23 shooting), adding 10 rebounds and six assists to lead the Pelicans to their seventh win in their last nine games. Davis has missed five of those the nine games with an injured shoulder, including the 102-96 win over the Nets on February 25th.
If he’d taken a step back with his injury, Davis vaulted himself into the top tier of MVP candidates, especially considering the Pelicans now stand just a half-game back behind Oklahoma City for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Since his return to the lineup on March 4, “The Brow” has been a one-man wrecking crew, averaging 33.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 4.5 blocks per game, shooting 58.9 percent from the field.
In that previous meeting in February, the Pelicans won their third of four straight games without Davis, Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday, behind a career-high 25 points from Quincy Pondexter. Tyreke Evans, in the midst of perhaps his best season since his rookie year in 2009-10, scored 15 points and dished out 11 assists in the victory. Johnson led the Nets with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
The Nets kick off their 15th back-to-back set of the season tonight, and their first since their Texas split against Houston and Dallas that closed the five-game road trip.
Watch out for: Deron Williams’ confidence level. In the midst of his worst season since entering the league, the ten-year veteran has shot just 7-for 30 (23.3 percent) the past three games and his overall play has done a complete 180 since the first week after the All-Star break. Just before the break, Williams suffered through a four game stretch that saw him miss 22 straight shots (6-for-31 overall). Last game he took only five shots in 30 minutes, with little aggression.
Tip-off is at 7:30 PM EDT at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.