#TrustTheProcess vs. #TrustTheProgress: A Nets-Sixers Matinee
The Brooklyn Nets are in an absolute freefall and their five-game losing streak has left the Nets with the worst record in the NBA at 8-27. Friday’s 116 -108 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers continues an eleven-game streak where the Nets have given up 100 or more points to their opponents. In fact, the Nets have only held their opponents under 100 points three times this season in total — or in other words, yikes.
Brooklyn played tough against the Cavaliers and, despite falling behind as many as 24 points, the Nets did not give up and trimmed the deficit to single digits through a 15-0 run to start the fourth quarter. However, three big baskets from Kyrie Irving on back-to-back-to-back possessions, including two three-pointers, would give the defending champions a 14-point cushion that they’d nurture to the final buzzer. In spite of a hot night from Bojan Bogdonavic (23 points) and Caris LeVert (19 points, a career-high), the Cavaliers, unsurprisingly, proved to be too much for the Nets to handle. LeBron James chipped in, as usual, lighting up the Barclays Center with an array of dunks and finished with a game-high 36 points and 13 rebounds.
Brooklyn will be looking to avenge a 108-107 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on December 18th. Things have gotten so bad in Brooklyn that a win over the 76ers will still leave the Nets at the bottom of the Atlantic Division behind, of course, these young opponents. The Sixers played one of their best games of the year on Friday, taking the Boston Celtics to the limit in an 110-106 loss. In Boston, the Sixers were led by their frontcourt as both Joel Embiid and Ersan Ilyasova scored 20+ points and the Celtics needed some late-game heroics from Isaiah Thomas to nail down the victory.
Back in December, the Nets nearly had a chance to win on the final play of the game after Embiid mishandled an inbound pass, allowing Joe Harris an opportunity at the loose ball near the hoop for a possible game-winning shot. As time ran out on Harris about a month ago, so did the Nets’ hope of not crashing into rock bottom — can they take a step towards the light this afternoon?
3 Things to Watch for in Nets-Sixers:
1. Spencer Dinwiddie
Perhaps surprisingly, Spencer Dinwiddie survived the last day of cuts for those with nonguaranteed contracts. Thusly, this means that the Nets will keep Dinwiddie at least through the summer and the former second-rounder will receive about $1 million this year — a nice payday for the point guard that once tore his ACL in college and slipped down draft boards. Between making a few spot starts in Chicago and schlepping in the D-League, it’s been a long road to this point for Dinwiddie — now it’s time for him to make good on Sean Marks’ faith.
2. Caris LeVert
Brooklyn’s first-round draft pick has gotten healthy and comfortable right before our eyes. Against the Cavaliers, LeVert had a career-night with 19 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds, nailed a couple three-pointers, and had just 1 turnover in 25+ minutes. Parlaying that success against the 76ers could be a great opportunity to keep the confidence sky-high — at some point this year, we suspect LeVert will become a starter, but, for now, this will have to do.
3. Battle of the Bigs
Joel Embiid outplayed Brook Lopez in their match-up in Philadelphia, so the Nets’ big man will look to buck the trend here at home. Although Lopez did flirt with a triple-double — 22 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists — he was unable to contain Embiid on the defensive end and allowed the rookie to have a career night. Simply put, this match-up will likely determine the winner in this ugly contest.