Brooklyn Nets Host Phoenix Suns to Tip Off Homestand
Nets have won 12 of 14 with four home games coming up this week
With Wednesday’s 123-104 wipeout of the Celtics up in Boston, the Brooklyn Nets have won 12 of their last 14 games to rise to the top of the Eastern Conference with a 14-5 record. Finding an NBA team running hotter than Brooklyn right now is a tough task.
Enter the Phoenix Suns, who are carrying a 15-game win streak after Friday night’s 118-97 win over the New York Knicks. The Suns went into that game second in the NBA in points per game (112.3) and first in field goal percentage (47.9) and balanced at the other end of the floor in ranking third in the league in defensive rating, allowing 103.8 points per 100 possessions.
The Suns are coming off last season’s run to the NBA Finals after finishing 51-21 in the regular season.
“Lot of carryover from last year,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash. “They really had a great year last year. Even from the bubble. They’ve formed a real identity here. I think (coach Monty Williams has) been outstanding in forming that and great balance. Lot of pieces that fit together very well. Really, really strong team. Obviously, their winning streak, it’s pretty good.”
Devin Booker leads Phoenix with 23.1 points per game, while DeAndre Ayton and Chris Paul are both averaging double-doubles — Ayton with 16.0 points and 11.8 rebounds while shooting 63.3 percent and Paul with 14.1 points and a league-leading 10.4 assists per game.
Alerted to the Phoenix win streak after Friday’s practice — the Suns last lost on Oct. 27 — Brooklyn guard Bruce Brown simply said, “They have a tough one tomorrow.”
For their part, the Nets are fourth in the NBA in field goal percentage (46.6), first in 3-point percentage (37.7), and third in effective field goal percentage (54.3). Kevin Durant is second in the NBA in scoring (28.2) and James Harden is second in assists (9.2). Patty Mills is second in 3-point percentage (50.4) and Joe Harris — who has missed Brooklyn’s last five games with an ankle sprain and is out on Saturday as well — is third (46.6).
The Nets are sixth in the league in defensive rating, allowing 104.7 points per 100 possessions, and on Wednesday they limited the Celtics — who came into that game on a decent streak of their own, having won eight of 11 — to 37.4 percent shooting overall and 22.9 percent from 3-point range.
“I just thought we showed a crowd,” said Nash. “We talk a lot about getting back in transition and loading to the ball, taking away that first action. I thought we were strong there. That’s something we’ve talked about since day one, but we’re really good at it. They missed more so the complementary players. They missed some good looks. But that was kind of the game plan was to be in, take away the paint, take away the early actions and have the complementary guys have to make some threes. I thought our adherence to the game plan was solid. We were organized. We got back early and tried to take away first action and showed a lot of support from our help defenders.”
The Nets have also thrived while demonstrating some adaptability, as they did last year in Nash’s first season. The starting lineup that won nine of the 11 consecutive games it started together was disrupted with Harris’ ankle injury and then Brown — who may return against Phoenix — missed the last two games with hamstring tightness.
Against Boston, Nash went with his fourth different starting lineup in as many games when he gave center LaMarcus Aldridge — Brooklyn’s third-leading scorer at 13.6 points per game while shooting 57.5 from the field — his first start of the year. The win over the Celtics kept the Nets atop the East with the NBA’s third-best record while going into Saturday’s game against the No. 2 team from the West.
“I think we’re on a journey to get better throughout the course of the year,” said Nash. “So if we win a measuring stick-game or lose a measuring-stick game, I’m more concerned with continuing to trend in the right direction. Are we getting clearer in our identity and our principles? That’s what I’m looking at, not always win or loss. Is our process correct? Are we trying to do the right things? Are we moving along a path we’ve set out to hit? That’s what we’re looking for, especially at this stage of the season. It would be a confidence boost to win against one of the top teams, but at the same time, if we don’t, what can it afford us? That’s just the flip side. You get confidence in a win, but what can you learn and improve on in getting that measuring stick in a loss.”
The Phoenix game tips off a four-game homestand for the Nets. Let’s take a look at who else is bound for Barclays Center over the next week:
November 30 vs. Knicks, 7:30 p.m.
The Nets will host the first meeting of the year between the East River rivals. Since starting 5-1, the Knicks are 5-8 after Friday night’s loss to the Suns. New York’s defensive rating is almost identical to last season’s, with the Knicks allowing 107.7 points per 100 possessions compared to 107.8 last season. But with offense down throughout the league, New York ranks 16th compared to fourth last season and hasn’t made up the difference on the offensive end. Julius Randle leads the Knicks with 20.4 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 5.1 assists.
December 3 vs. Timberwolves, 7:30 p.m.
The Timberwolves, 9-10 after Friday night’s 133-115 loss to Charlotte, have made a huge leap on the defensive end after ranking 28th in defensive rating last season. Going into Friday night’s game, they were fourth in allowing 104.0 points per 100 possessions and also fourth in effective field goal percentage (49.5) with the eighth-best net rating (2.6) in the league. Offensively, Minnesota is opportunistic: second in offensive rebounding percentage (31.6) and first in second-chance points (16.2) as well as first in opponent turnovers (18.2), fourth in steals (9.5), first in points off turnovers (21.3) and ninth in fast break points (13.7).
They’ve had the trio of Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, and D’Angelo Russell together for 17 of 19 games so far, something rarely available last season, and they’ve combined to average more than 60.0 points per game between them.
December 4 vs. Bulls, 7:30 p.m.
Chicago is 13-7 after Friday night’s 123-88 win against Orlando. The Bulls beat the Nets 118-95 on Nov. 8 on the second half of a back-to-back for Brooklyn, the only loss during a six-game Brooklyn road trip. Going into Friday’s game, the Bulls were sixth in the league in net rating (2.9) and ninth in defensive rating (105.3). While the Bulls commit the fifth-fewest turnovers in the league (13.0), they’re fourth in opponent turnovers (16.3), third in points off turnovers (20.2) and eighth in fast break points (14.0).
Catch the Brooklyn Nets this Season