Brooklyn Nets Notebook: Insights ahead of game vs. Philadelphia 76ers
The Nets return home after five-game road trip and face a division rival in Philadelphia
BROOKLYN – The Nets (21-45) are back home after a grueling 10-day trip that saw them face some of the best teams in the league. Brooklyn got a confidence-boosting win in Charlotte in the trip’s finale and will be looking for more of the same against a division rival in Philadelphia (35-29) on Sunday.
Game Info: Sixers at Nets, 7:30 p.m. ET (TV: YES, Radio: WFAN)
Here’s What to Watch For:
Back to Familiar Formula?
The Nets got one of their better wins of the season the last time these two teams met as they won 116-108. However, the Sixers have improved since that meeting – a point head coach Kenny Atkinson emphasized on Saturday.
“We do have to understand, this is a different Philly team to me,” he said at the Nets’ HSS Training Center. “The changes, having added the shooting in [Marco] Belinelli and [Ersan] İlyasova – man they are a serious playoff threat. I think it was really smart by them, adding that shooting to their [roster], it makes them much tougher to guard.”
To Atkinson’s point, what the Nets did well in the last encounter was key in on Phildelphia’s two shooters at the time – J.J. Redick and Dario Saric. While both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons had strong performances, taking away the Sixers biggest perimeter threats made the team very one-dimensional and easier to defend. Now with four players who can all hit from midrange or downtown, Brooklyn’s challenge becomes more difficult.
That being said, Atkinson believes with an almost fully-healthy roster, his team will be motivated to take on one of the Eastern Conference’s top teams.
“Now, that we are healthy, we should keep going up, that’s how I feel. And I think that’s how the players feel, that we’re starting to gain a little momentum,” Atkinson said before later adding. “We’re playing better so I want to see [it], I think they feel like this is an opportunity to continue that improvement.”
The Nets are looking for consecutive wins for the first time since mid-January and could also push their win streak against the Sixers to three games with a positive result.
Can Caris LeVert Continue Improvement?
LeVert was sidelined in the last encounter between these two teams, but he’ll definitely be a factor in Sunday’s game.
The second-year guard is on a tear lately, averaging 16.6 points, 3.8 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals and shooting an impressive 49.2 percent from the floor – 40.9 from three. The confidence and swagger that he had in December appears to be back.
Atkinson has praised LeVert’s versatility, pointing to its effectiveness in the modern NBA.
“The great thing about him is with all of the switching going on in this league, he can go by anybody,” Atkinson said. “That’s huge that he can break the defense down when they do switch.”
LeVert also has impressed with his playmaking as he dropped eight dimes against the Hornets on Thursday. He insists he’s not trying to focus on getting assists, it just comes naturally to him.
“I think that’s one of the things you see right away is just how unselfish I am on the court,” LeVert said. “I don’t really care about stats or anything like that, I just want to win.”
Key Stat: A Nets win against the Sixers would push their record against them at Barclays Center to 9-3.
Allen Crabbe on potentially setting the Nets’ single-season record for threes: “I don’t really pay much attention to it…I just come in and play basketball; keep trying to develop myself as a basketball player, do what I can to help the team win. But I mean, it wouldn’t be possible without my teammates. Great group of guys, guys who play unselfish basketball and a lot of those come from them finding me in the offense.”
AC had a game pic.twitter.com/qCUf280WtA— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) March 10, 2018
Atkinson on Spencer Dinwiddie-D’Angelo Russell pairing: “They both have to stop deferring, be their aggressive selves. Understand that we are playing position-less basketball in a sense. Playing in perimeter, understand that you can do both [passing and shooting]. My argument is that they just need more time together…. There’s no reason [it can’t work], they are both good players.