Nets vs. Mavericks: Brooklyn Takes Road Show West

After losing two games in Milwaukee, the Brooklyn road trip continues to Dallas on Thursday and then Denver on Saturday — consecutive games against some fast-rising Western Conference teams. The Nuggets (43-22) have won 17 of their last 21 to move up to fourth place, and they’re just a half-game behind the third-place Clippers (44-22). The Mavericks are 14-7 since March 29 and have moved up to fifth place, though they’re still in a battle to avoid the play-in.

The Nets are 15-9 against teams currently sitting in the top five spots in each conference. That includes 7-3 against the West, but now just 8-6 against the East after the two losses to Milwaukee. After leading the league in wins each of the past two seasons, the Bucks (41-24) are 1½ games behind the second-place Nets (43-23), who sit 1½ games out of first place behind Philadelphia (44-21).

“I think it’s a great experience for us to recognize where we are,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash. “We’ve got a gap to make up here. We understand that’s a team that’s been running the same offense, been playing together, same schemes on defense for years now. Gone deep into the playoffs, and that’s something that we don’t have, so how can we make up that gap? That’s kind of our life in a nutshell heading home here. We’re trying to get everyone back to full health and we’re gonna try to overcome a lack of common experiences. That is our challenge as much as anything. While we do that, can we be more physical, can we be more connected, can we handle and control some of the controllables that can help us hang in some of these games and win some of these games while we’re trying to put the pieces together.”

“That is a huge factor,” said Kevin Durant. “Continuity is a big thing in this league. We got veterans on this team that played in different situations that know pretty much every terminology that goes on in this league and every kind of set that we run on both sides. That's in our advantage as well, having that veteran leadership but we still are a connected group. I feel like we've been together for years, too, so we gotta continue to keep building on that.”


Blake Griffin leads the NBA with 22 charges drawn, including 11 since he joined the Nets. The Nets are now sixth in the NBA in charges drawn with 46. Thirty-one of those have come since Griffin made his Brooklyn debut on March 21 and that leads the league in that span.

“I think he’s leading the group in that respect,” said Steve Nash. “He’s leading the group by example. He’s showing that it’s another way to affect the game and to give up your body in those moments can win a possession. He’s been great at it. He’s in some ways inspired his teammates to do it as well and that has been contagious. Great leadership, great attentiveness and great willingness to care and sacrifice for his team.”


Bruce Brown returned on Sunday after missing three games due to knee soreness, and Nic Claxton returned on Tuesday after being held out due to health and safety protocols, missing eight games. Claxton played five minutes. Brown, who played five minutes on Sunday, played 12 minutes on Tuesday. Eight of those minutes came in the fourth quarter, where Brown grabbed all five of his rebounds.

“Tonight I think was an opportunity to reintroduce them, to get their feet wet so to speak,” said Nash. “We’re still trying to get them back to their full fitness. It was great to have them get out there, feel it, and be a part of it.”


While making 4-of-8 3-pointers against Milwaukee on Tuesday, Joe Harris took sole possession of second place in franchise history for 3-pointers made in a single-season with 205. Harris passed Allen Crabbe, who he was tied with at 201 entering the game. D’Angelo Russell holds the franchise record with 234 3-pointers in 2018-19. Harris is second in Nets history for career 3-pointers made with the team (795) behind Jason Kidd (813). He currently leads the NBA in 3-point percentage for the season (48.0).


On Monday, the Nets signed guard Mike James to a second 10-day contract. James has been Brooklyn’s primary reserve at point guard behind Kyrie Irving with James Harden out. Over seven games with Brooklyn, he’s averaged 6.7 points and 3.6 assists in 16.1 minutes per game. James had 10 points against Milwaukee on Tuesday, making 4-of-6 shots.

“Talented player, good athlete, has speed and can get in the paint and cause problems. He's a talented scorer as well. But just trying to find a role for him that's clear and simple and comfortable,” said Steve Nash. “Joining a new team and having so relatively so little time with us, that can be really difficult. So in one respect, he's done a great job. And in another perspective there’s been some inconsistency there I think just because of the parameters of his experience in it; he's coming here after a month of not playing and joined a new team right in the middle of things. So that takes time. So you take your hat off to him. And at the same time you say there's a long way to go before we can really define and say what the role will be and how he’ll adapt and attack it.”


The Mavericks are 37-28 and in fifth place in the Western Conference — a game ahead of seventh in the battle to avoid the play-in — after winning 14 of their last 21 games. Dallas won the previous meeting, 115-98 at Barclays Center on Feb. 27, snapping an eight-game Brooklyn winning streak. The Mavericks are eighth in offensive rating (115.1) and effective field goal percentage (54.9). While they are sixth in 3-point attempts per game (38.1), they are 18th in 3-point percentage (36.1). Conversely, Dallas shoots one of the highest percentages in the league on 2-point attempts (55.5, third) while attempting nearly the fewest (48.9, 26th). The Mavericks are low in assists (22.5, 26th), but they don’t give it away either, with the third-fewest turnovers in the league (12.1). They’re also 30th in steals (6.2) and 25th in blocks (4.3). Luka Doncic is fourth in the NBA in scoring (28.5) and assists (8.9) and averages 8.1 rebounds as well. Kristaps Porzingis averages 20.2 points and 9.1 rebounds but has missed six of Dallas’ last seven games.