Nets vs. Thunder: Brooklyn Thrives Through a Tough Week
Shorthanded Nets won two of three before tight loss in Memphis
It’s been a challenging and unpredictable week for the Brooklyn Nets as they head into Sunday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Barclays Center.
They lost Kevin Durant and then Tyler Johnson due to health and safety protocols, while Kyrie Irving has missed the last two games due to personal reasons. Still, they beat Utah and Philadelphia, then went down to the wire against Memphis after erasing an early 22-point deficit in the second half of a home/road back-to-back. They’ll take a 5-5 record into Sunday’s game. Nets head coach Steve Nash said before both Thursday and Friday’s game that Durant was expected to be available Sunday as long as he continued to test negative for the coronavirus. On Saturday, the Nets listed Durant as probable and Irving as questionable against OKC.
“Everybody is battling their own issues over the course of this season and two out of three in this league is pretty solid,” said Joe Harris after Friday night’s game in Memphis. “I mean, to be an elite team where we want to go, we need to be a little bit better and have a little better win ratio. But for right now, in terms of small victories, I think it’s a good step in the right direction. We’ve been playing, at least these last couple games, more competitively I think. Just bringing out good energy. I think today in the first half we dipped a little bit from what we had built up the last two games, but we regained it the second half and I think we’re going to kind of carry this momentum and obviously it’s going to help a lot when we get Ky back and Kevin back.”
Over the last three games, Brooklyn’s net rating of 13.3 is the best in the NBA this week. Its defensive rating of 101.3 is also No. 1, although it took a bit of a jump when Memphis got off to a big first-quarter start on Friday. But the Nets settled things down in limiting the Grizzlies to 30-of-71 shooting over the final three quarters and just 7-of-23 from 3-point range, 30.4 percent.
“We played pretty good basketball in stretches,” said Caris LeVert. “I think it will be important for all of us to keep this momentum going when those two get back because obviously they are a huge part of our team and we need them to play well in order to do what we want to do. So, I think for us it was good to kind of get our confidence, get our looks and things like that because we’re going to need that going forward for sure.”
HARRIS HITS 70
Joe Harris’ franchise-record streak of consecutive games with a 3-pointer made was pushed to the limit on Friday before he connected with under a minute to go. The league leader in 3-point percent in 2018-19 — he ranked seventh last season — Harris is off to another fast start in shooting 52.6 percent from deep through 10 games, currently ninth in the NBA. He’s ninth in NBA history with a career 43.0 percentage.
After starting 155 straight games dating back to the end of the 2017-18 season, Harris has come off the bench for the last three, beginning with Tuesday’s rotation reshuffling in the wake of Kevin Durant’s absence.
“I think it’s more mentally than anything else,” said Harris of coming off the bench. “When you’re starting, obviously, you don’t really have time to sit back and absorb the game. You’re right into it. I’ve obviously started here for a while, but my first couple of years in Brooklyn, I didn’t start. So, it’s not like this is foreign territory for me and I know how to get myself ready to go where you hope to come in and try to get your legs underneath you. You’re able to come in and at least try to make an immediate impact. That’s what the bench is supposed to do. I’m looking at our plus-minus today, and it definitely wasn’t good enough. The bench, we’ve got to come in and do a better job of maintaining what the starters have built up. You don’t want to have any dip off. We have enough depth on this team where we can say that we’re not going to have dip off when the second unit comes in. You’ve got to maintain and build off whatever the first unit has done.”
THOSE CLASSIC UNIFORMS
The Brooklyn Nets broke out their Classic Edition uniforms on Thursday, a throwback to the jerseys they wore for a single season in 1990-91. The decade was known for some wholesale style makeovers throughout the league between then and the time Nets coach Steve Nash entered the NBA in 1996. The Nets will be back in the tie-dyes Sunday against Oklahoma City and Tuesday against Denver.
“There's some great ones. I think the ones that we're going to wear tonight are great and definitely could tell they, I don't want to go as far to say they're a period piece but they have a date on them in a sense a style, an era I think it's super fun,” said Nash before Thursday’s game. “I wouldn't say that about every uniform of every era, but they certainly have some classics from each era, but we do have some classics and I think it's cool we're going to roll those out.”
ABOUT THE THUNDER
The young Grizzlies have been struggling on the offensive end, although they’ve shown a little uptick in winning three of their last four to get back to .500 at 4-4. Still they’re last in the league in both points (101.9) and offensive rating (100.9), while ranking 27th in field goal percentage (43.8) and 28th in 3-point percentage (32.9). The free looks haven’t been much better — they’re 29th in shooting from the line (69.1). The Thunder have been better on the other side of the ball, where a 107.5 defensive rating has them 11th in the NBA. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander leads Oklahoma City with 19.8 points and 6.8 assists per game.