Nets vs. Spurs: Brooklyn Bound for Texas to Close Out First Half

Spurs and Rockets are final opponents before All-Star break

The Brooklyn Nets are bound for Texas to wrap up the first half of the season, visiting the San Antonio Spurs on Monday and the Houston Rockets on Wednesday.

While they’ll continue to be without Kevin Durant through the All-Star break, Nets head coach Steve Nash said before Saturday’s game against Dallas that Kyrie Irving’s absence — listed as out due to right shoulder, injury recovery — was likely to last only that one game.

“I don't think it's serious,” said Nash. “I think it's maintenance. He knows his body, he's discussed it with us, he has history with that shoulder and he is taking the necessary precautions to make sure he can keep up the maintenance on that shoulder, but I don't think it's anything more than that. So, I'd expect him to play in the next game and if not, I don't think this is a thing that will linger into the All-Star break.”

With both Irving and Durant out on Saturday night, plus Tyler Johnson missing the game due to the onset of a migraine, the Nets saw their eight-game win streak stall out in a 115-97 loss to the Mavericks.

Despite nine first-half turnovers that led to 20 Dallas points, the Nets put up 64 points in the first half and were within four points at the break. But they managed just 18 third-quarter points, fell behind by 12, and the Mavericks broke the game open in the early minutes of the fourth quarter.

“I think everyone’s frustrated that we just had a little, just shorter obviously options tonight,” said Nash. “You’re missing two All-Star starters, but even beyond that, Jeff (Green) went out, Tyler couldn’t play. It just stretched everything and put us in territory where a lot of guys hadn’t had a lot of minutes together. So, frustrating, but that’s the nature of this season. I’ve said that time and time again. We’re gonna have all sorts of nights where we’re gonna mix and match, play different things, and tonight I think we weren’t quite good enough, but Dallas played well and one or two too many factors that went against us.”

The Nets have mostly navigated these issues ably throughout the season in building their 22-13 record. Durant has missed 10 of the last 11 games, including seven of the eight wins in Brooklyn’s streak. Within the eight-game win streak they still saw Johnson and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot miss a game each, and Green had been out for the previous two before returning on Saturday.

While Johnson is listed as probable against the Spurs, both Green (right shoulder contusion) and Luwawu-Cabarrot (right knee soreness) are listed as questionable. Irving is not listed on the status report.

“I think this has been sort of consistent for us,” said Nash before the game on Saturday. “I don't think it's a big departure. I think the guys are ready for us to throw out different line ups and have different people out of the line up. So, I don't think guys are that affected by the change. I think they're more used to the kind of inconsistency with our availability and it's no big deal.”

REBOUNDING RATES

The Nets have been stronger on the boards while winning eight of their last 10 games, though it’s better glimpsed through rebounding rates rather than raw rebounds. Through the season’s first 25 games as of Feb. 6 Brooklyn was 27th in the league in defensive rebounding percentage (71.8). Over the last 10 games, the Nets rank sixth (75.9).

That has alleviated some issues in allowing second chance points. Brooklyn ranked last through 25 games giving up 15.8 per game. Over the last 10 they’ve allowed 13.5 second-chance points, 22nd overall.

“I think the rebounding has been pretty good,” said Steve Nash. “I'm trying to think as to when that happened but it feels like we turned a corner at some point where a combination of things but definitely our team addressed it personally. We realized this is something we have to do together. Each individual guy is taking more responsibility and helping on the glass, like we always say, gang rebounding. So the rebounding has been a lot more positive especially during the winning streak, overall it doesn't seem like such a hurdle for us every night. So that's, give the players credit. It's something that just takes effort and want and will and they've provided that. It's not something we wash our hands off and say it's not a problem anymore it's something we have to take care of every single day and that takes commitment and our guys have shown a tremendous amount of commitment.”

With the emphasis on gang rebounding, that means getting guards and wings on the boards, and James Harden leads Brooklyn with 8.5 per game.

“He’s got incredible hands, anticipation, timing,” said Nash last week. “He really helps us on the boards where we are. We have been weak, so it speaks to how many ways he can affect the game and we need those rebounds from him. He’s pretty clever around the basket with the way he uses his body and his hands.”

REGGIE PERRY WITH LONG ISLAND

The Nets have sent rookie two-way player Reggie Perry to play with the Long Island Nets in the G League bubble in Florida, and through 11 games Perry is leading Long Island with 18.4 points per game while shooting 55.8 percent. He’s also averaging 8.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists, and shooting 44.0 percent on 2.3 3-point attempts per game. Perry appeared in 14 games for Brooklyn before joining Long Island.

“We like Reggie's skill set,” said Steve Nash. “He's a guy that I think can develop into a very good 3-point shooter. He's got a good feel for the game, he can pass, he can play dribble handoff, he can pick-and-roll in the short roll and make plays for his teammates. He's skilled around the basket. So if he continues to develop in all those things and is able to defend at an improved and accelerated rate, he's definitely an NBA player and can help us. Just want to give him that opportunity in the bubble to keep growing, keep getting better and get those minutes that allow him to develop.”

ABOUT THE SPURS

San Antonio is 17-12 and has risen to fifth place in the Western Conference after winning six of its last eight games. Guard DeMar DeRozan leads the Spurs with 20.3 points and 7.0 assists per game, and Dejounte Murray averages 15.7 points and 7.2 rebounds. San Antonio ranks ninth in defensive rating (109.8).

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