Nets host Pacers in home opener, Thaddeus Young returns as a visitor
Opponent: Indiana Pacers
Location: Barclays Center
Time: 7:30 EST
Watch: YES Network
After a rollercoaster effort in their campaign opener, the Brooklyn Nets return home to the friendly confines of the Barclays Center in hopes of finding their first win. Two nights ago, the Nets scratched and clawed their way back into the game against the Boston Celtics, falling 122-117 although the Celtics led by 16 heading into the fourth quarter. As usual, Bojan Bogdanovic did his thing while starting in place of an injured Randy Foye, drilling a couple clutch three-pointers down the stretch and had a team-high 21 points.
The real run came with just over three and a half minutes to go, when rookie Isaiah Whitehead and second-year big Chris McCullough checked in and helped the Nets roar back from double-digits down in a matter of minutes. During their should-have-been-garbage-time minutes, they quickly racked up positive +/- at an unbelievable mark. Whitehead, making his NBA debut, finished at +12 and McCullough’s +14 was second-highest, only trailing point guard Isaiah Thomas, who finished at +15.
All in all, despite the furious comeback, the Nets still left plenty to be desired defensively. At times, it seemed as if the slower Justin Hamilton — despite his career-high 19 points — would get screened once at the start of the shot clock and then all chaos would break loose, ultimately ceding as many points to Al Horford and Tyler Zeller as he scored himself. Although the Celtics are certainly a tough first matchup of the year for a brand new defense, the Nets won’t win many games after allowing 120+ points. The Celtics’ crafty movement and rapid-fire passing looked as if it would doom the Nets to 0-1 immediately — but, to their credit, head coach Kenny Atkinson had them hang in and battle.
Looking towards the Indiana Pacers, the matchup between Brook Lopez and second-year center Myles Turner may just decide this one. In the opener, Turner dropped 30 points on 13-19 shooting and tallied 16 rebounds in 37 minutes — finally announcing his arrival on the NBA scene. Lopez, on the other hand, shot just 1-7 from the floor and grabbed 5 rebounds in his nearly team-low 21 minutes.
A familiar face will be making his return to the Barclays Center, but this time dressed in blue and gold. Thaddeus Young, who was sent to Indiana for the first round pick that turned out to be Caris LeVert, started alongside Turner in the Pacers’ front court and notched 11 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists on a respectable 5-10 from the floor. Young, of course, spent a year and a half in Brooklyn and even moved his family there, averaging 15 points and 9 rebounds over 73 games in 2015-2016.
3 Things to Watch for in Nets-Pacers:
1. Will the Nets continue to chuck up three-pointers like their lives depend on it?
Against Boston, they shot 15-44 from deep as they started hot — Joe Harris, Justin Hamilton, Bogdanovic — but cooled down as the Celtics built their lead. Greivis Vasquez, McCullough, and Whitehead were the only Nets to not attempt a three-pointer and the team’s 44 attempts was a franchise record.
2. Is Rondae Hollis-Jeferson up to the task of guarding Paul George?
Paul George scored 25 points versus the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who scored just 5 points with 2 rebounds and a steal, will need to limit the All-Star’s output if the Nets want to hang with another Eastern Conference contender.
3. Will Brook Lopez play more than 25 minutes?
Lopez played the fourth-least of all Nets against the Celtics with a paltry 21 minutes, which was more than only Vasquez, McCullough, and Whitehead. Hamilton played the most minutes for the big men with 25, Jeremy Lin led the Nets at 27:34, and Anthony Bennett did not check in at all.