Preview: Nets aim to get back to winning ways against Wizards
Brooklyn wants to end its seven-game losing streak against Washington
The Brooklyn Nets (10-15) are back at Barclays Center with their fans hoping to get a glimpse of new arrivals Jahlil Okafor and Nik Stauskas.
The reaction for the Nets' trade has been largely positive. But Kenny Atkinson will likely have his team focused at the task at hand: Beating the Washington Wizards (14-12).
Brooklyn is stuck in its longest-ever losing streak to Washington, as it hasn’t beaten the team in seven games – a run that dates back to April 2015. The team is also struggling at Barclays Center recently as its lost its last three games at its home stadium. As the old saying goes, “something has to give right?”
On a positive note, John Wall remains sidelined for the Wizards, which definitely a boost for Nets considering his past performances – he’s averaged 18.2 points, 8.6 assists and 4.5 rebounds against the team. Still, Brooklyn will have its hands full with the hot-handed Bradley Beal.
Three Key Things to Watch for:
Will Okafor and Stauskas Make Their Nets Debuts?
There is palpable excitement around the Nets’ new additions, but expectations for both players should be measured – at least for their first few games.
Neither Okafor nor Stauskas have played much this season, 70 minutes in total to be exact, and will need to improve their conditioning before they can be counted on to play significant minutes. Kenny Atkinson has the Nets playing at the third-highest pace in the NBA and his system requires a certain fitness level in order to succeed. However, the former Sixers should see action in Tuesday night’s game and give a glimpse of what their roles could be in their new surroundings.
Okafor gives Brooklyn something it hasn’t had since Brook Lopez’s departure – a reliable low post scorer. While the Nets love playing on the fast break, the center’s presence should be helpful when opposing teams force them to play in half court sets – as seen in the team’s loss to Miami on Saturday.
“That’s something that I’m accustomed to, being in the low post,” Okafor noted in his introduction to the media on Monday. “If I’m doubled, passing it out to shooters, that’s just the way I’ve always played.”
Stauskas has been inconsistent in the NBA, but he was an elite scorer in college. He reunites with his former Michigan teammate Caris LeVert and that familiarity might bring out his best.
“Having someone I’m comfortable with and that I’ve been friends with for a while, it’s always good,” Stauskas said on Monday. “And then on court I feel like we’ve already had some chemistry in past years. Hopefully we can continue that.”
Key Matchup: Beal vs. Allen Crabbe
Beal has been incredible since John Wall went down with injury on Nov. 22. He’s on a tear in his past five games, averaging 26.2 points per game – including dropping 51 points on the Trail Blazers.
The 24-year-old is difficult to defend as he’s got good ball-handling skills and can shoot from anywhere on the floor. Allen Crabbe will be tasked initially to guard him, but the Nets will need a team effort to slow the shooting guard down.
Crabbe can also help by forcing Beal to exert energy on the defensive end. There could be a lot of threes on display on Tuesday night.
Can Nets Take Advantage of Home Stand?
Brooklyn is 5-7 at home this season and the team is clearly trying to improve that record. With its first lengthy stretch at Barclays Center (the team plays five of their next six games at the arena) starting on Tuesday, now is as good a time as ever.
Projected starters: Dinwiddie, Crabbe, Carroll, Hollis-Jefferson, Zeller
Injuries: D’Angelo Russell (left knee surgery) OUT