The Brooklyn Nets have a challenge on a back-to-back. After dropping their sixth straight game Monday night in Orlando on another cold-shooting night, they’ll host the Oklahoma City Thunder Tuesday night at Barclays Center.
The Thunder have come alive over the last few weeks, winning nine of their last 10 games before Monday night’s 120-113 loss in Philadelphia, with veteran Chris Paul and second-year man Shai Gilgeous-Alexander providing a dynamic backcourt pairing.
After trailing by 16 points in the first half against the Magic, the Nets held a fourth-quarter lead for the fourth time in their last five games. And against Toronto on Saturday, they were within a point in the opening minute of the fourth quarter.
“Our starters are struggling a little bit,” said Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson. “I thought our bench was good. Our starters have been really good the whole year, they’re just struggling lately. But I was proud of our defensive effort. Defense was really good. I thought our process was right on offense. I thought we got a ton of open threes. We got to the rim at a high rate. We just didn’t make threes and didn’t finish at the rim, so that’s a bad combination.”
Brooklyn got solid performances off the bench from Wilson Chandler and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, among others.
“I thought they shared the ball,” said Atkinson of the bench groups. “I thought (Dzanan) Musa gave us a real burst of energy. Having his ballhandling out there, I think we need that. We’ll probably have to look at that some more, just help our other guys with the ball-handling duties, because he can play pick-and-roll, he can make a pass. I thought he was a real positive. I thought (Rodions Kurucs) was good. The whole group was good.”
Atkinson expects to have Caris LeVert available again on Tuesday. The swingman had missed 24 games due to a thumb injury before returning Saturday and scoring 13 points in 16 minutes off the bench. The coach was non-committal whether LeVert would come off the bench again or possibly start, but does expect to see more of him on the court.
“We’ll bump him up a little,” said Atkinson. “I think it’s like we’ve always done it, incremental minutes and then build him up and hopefully after a short period of time he’ll be ready full on.”
NETS ADD ANDERSON ON 10-DAY
The Nets signed guard/forward Justin Anderson to a 10-day contract on Monday. Anderson has 216 games of NBA experience over the last four seasons with Dallas, Philadelphia, and Atlanta after being selected 21st overall in the 2015 NBA Draft by the Mavericks.
A 6-foot-5, 231-pound swingman, Anderson played 13 games this season with Raptors 905 of the NBA G League, averaging 21.2 points and 6.8 assists. In college, he was teammates with Brooklyn’s Joe Harris at Virginia for two seasons.
“I think he brings some experience,” said Kenny Atkinson. He’s a very good athlete, kind of the new-style NBA player where he can play multiple positions; 4, 3, 2, plus he’s really good friends with Joe Harris, so that helps too.”
ABOUT THE THUNDER
This is the first meeting of the season between the Nets and Thunder.
Going into Monday night’s game, the Thunder were eighth in the NBA in field goal percentage (46.6), despite being 25th in 3-point percentage (34.1). They’re fifth in the NBA in field goal percentage on 2-pointers (53.3). Oklahoma City is 27th in 3-point attempts (29.5) and 28th in 3-pointers made (10.1). OKC is fifth in free throws made per game (19.4), and seventh in free throws attempted (24.4) and free throw percentage (79.4). The Thunder are 29th in offensive rebounding (8.6) and second-chance points (10.9).
Three of OKC’s top four scorers are newcomers. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (19.9 ppg) and Danilo Gallinari (18.0) came over from the Clippers in the Paul George trade. Gallinari is shooting 39.3 percent from 3-point range. Chris Paul (16.3 ppg, 6.3 apg) was acquired from Houston for Russell Westbrook. With Dennis Schroder averaging 18.5 points per game, the Thunder are heavy on backcourt scoring. Steven Adams averages 11.6 points and 9.9 rebounds.