When: 6 p.m.
Where: Barclays Center
Watch: YES Network/FOX Sports GO
It’s been a rough patch for the Brooklyn Nets. They have lost eight of their last nine games, with five of those losses in double digits. Brooklyn has been marred by injury and inconsistent play, and now stands at 19-37 on the season. They’re only two games behind the worst team in the NBA, the Atlanta Hawks. That’s not a place they’d like to be.
Brooklyn will look to get back on track Saturday night against the New Orleans Pelicans. Coincidentally, the Nets’ only trade deadline deal was with the very same team. The teams swapped Rashad Vaughn for Dante Cunningham on Thursday. Cunningham is not expected to suit up for the Nets tonight, but Vaughn will likely now be part of the visitor’s locker room at Barclays (after only one home game as a Net).
The last two times these teams met was a mess – for Brooklyn. While the final score was 128-113, the Nets were dominated the entire game. They trailed by at least 20 for most of the game, with DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis both compiling double doubles en route to victory. Rajon Rondo threw 25 assists – not a typo. While the Michigan duo of Caris LeVert and Nik Stauskas had 22 and 21 points respectively, that wasn’t enough for the Nets. Brooklyn will look to split the season series, and gain some momentum.
Here are three things to look for in Nets-Pelicans!
New Orleans + Niko
The Pelicans’ season may have reached a turning point two weeks ago. In a close game, Cousins ruptured his Achilles tendon. The superstar center will now miss the remainder of the season. It was a tough blow for a New Orleans team that was trending towards a playoff run. It was an even rougher blow for Cousins, who still has not made the playoffs in his career. The Pelicans, suffering through numerous injuries already, are trying their best to stay afloat in a loaded Western Conference.
To (somewhat) make up for the absence of Cousins, the Pelicans acquired Nikola Mirotic from the Chicago Bulls on Feb. 2. After his unfortunate tussle with Bobby Portis at the beginning of the season, Mirotic was having his best NBA season. He adds a dimension of shooting to the Pelicans, shooting 41.1 percent from the field this season. While he still may be acclimating to New Orleans’ system, he could be trouble for the Nets tonight from the perimeter.
Tighten Up the Defense
It’s well known that the Nets play fast, but the speed may be at a detriment to Brooklyn’s defense. The Nets rank 28th in the league in points allowed, letting opponents score 109.1 points per game. In their recent run of losses, they’ve allowed the victorious teams to score 115, 123, 116 and 111 points. That’s a lot. The Nets’ defense has been lackluster at best.
The Pelicans score 110.2 points per game, but without Cousins, the Pelicans are missing a huge part of their offense. They have lost their last three games – all post-Cousins injury. They played against the 76ers last night and only scored 82 points. If the Nets can tighten up their defense and try their best to contain Anthony Davis, it could lead to a win. Maybe.
Dinwiddie and DLo In Unison?
Spencer Dinwiddie and D’Angelo Russell are the Nets’ two premiere playmakers. Dinwiddie continues to play consistently as a starter, making timely shots and often the catalyst when the Nets make runs. Since his return from injury, D’Angelo Russell has been inconsistent at best. On Wednesday against the Pistons, Russell committed six turnovers in only 17 minutes – many due to sheer lack of focus. At times, Russell has shown flashes of what he was pre-injury, but he’s still trying to find his groove.
Russell’s minutes restriction may be loosening, so Kenny Atkinson may integrate his two lead guards. It will be interesting to see how the two play off of each other, and if the two can coexist for the future. After Allen Crabbe’s monster 34-point performance against the Pistons, the presence of two gifted playmakers could benefit him and the rest of the Nets’ shooters as well.