SEVEN! STRAIGHT! WINS! I literally cannot believe it. The streak as currently constituted has brought the Nets record in their last 15 games up to 7-8 which, while a game under .500, is not bad at all for a team vying for one of the last spots in the Eastern Conference Playoff Picture. Plus this team is showing some real signs of improvement all over the court. This is one of the most fun stretches of basketball we’ve ever had in Brooklyn and the teams first win streak this long since the first year after the big move.
The Pacers are up next, having lost two straight to the Cavs and the Raptors. They’re tough, sitting fourth in the East at 20-12, and will certainly be looking to bounce back after the two straight L’s. The game is in Brooklyn, and if the Nets win this one the streak will reach eight. It’s a big one. Let’s get into it.
Where To Follow The Game
YES and WFAN have this one at 7:30 pm, ET. You know who’s also been killing it lately? The Nets broadcast booth, even though their streak of success ranges back way farther than just seven games. We have to appreciate just how good Ian Eagle, Sarah Kustok, Ryan Ruocco, and now Richard Jefferson have been.
They’re easily the best crew in the league. It’s obvious. Plus, it’s always more fun when the team is winning.
Caris Levert (foot) is out and Treveon Graham (hamstring) is also out but presumably heading towards a return at some point maybe soon? Also Allen Crabbe has missed four straight games with a knee injury and is out again Friday.
Imagine how good this team is going to be once Levert is back and healthy. Just imagine it for a moment. You’re welcome.
Tyreke Evans has been dealing with a knee problem lately and has played reduces minutes in his last two games, but it’s likely we see him in this one.
The Two-Headed Snake bit once again in Chicago, and it’s becoming a real luxury for Brooklyn to have two point guards who can take over any given game and genuinely seem to enjoy the other ones success. D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie are also so stylistically different it makes them all the more difficult to guard as a tandem. Against the Pacers stout defense and Victor Oladipo, it’ll be important to get one or both of them going to grab that win.
An interesting wrinkle in the Nets game plan lately has been feeding Jarrett Allen the ball more often earlier in games. He seems to come out of every first quarter with like six or eight points, and I think establishing him as a scoring threat off pick-and-rolls and fast breaks changes the geometry of the Nets offense later in the game to give them more space to work on and penetrate from the perimeter. Allen demanding more of a gravitational pull in the offense is important, especially if the Nets are rarely going to post him up (nor should they).
The Pacers have the second best Defensive Rating in the league and allow just 100.8 points per game which leads the league by a margin of 1.5 points. It’s not going to be easy to put up points against them, and it’s going to take efforts from every Net capable of scoring buckets to step it up in this one.
Obviously, Dinwiddie and Russell will be important, but to beat a team like the Pacers guys like Joe Harris and DeMarre Carroll have to hit their shots as well. Not that I’m worried about Joe Harris or anything. He’s shooting, and this is true, 53 percent from three during the current win streak. On the subject of Offensive Gravity, Harris demands a ton of it off pick-and-rolls when he’s hot like this, making him extra dangerous of late with 3.6 assists per game during the streak. The man is an assassin from deep. And that dive to win the game against the Bulls! This team is so much fun.
Victor Oladipo hasn’t been putting up the numbers he was last season, although he remains one of the best shooting guards in the league and leads a surprisingly diversified attack from the Pacers offense. Being able to spread the floor with bigs like Myles Turner and Thaddeus Young (although Thaddeus is more of a theoretical shooter at this point, but that counts for something) can be an an effective strategy when paired with versatile wings like old friend Bojan Bogdanovic, new addition Tyreke Evans, and of course V.O. himself. They have six guys who are averaging double digit points.
Despite all of this, Pacers offense isn’t great, ranking just 20th in Offensive Rating and 25th in points per game. Part of this is their inability to hit threes even after signing guys like Doug McDermott and Tyreke Evans in the offseason. I seem to remember them being interested in Joe Harris this summer. Wanting Joey Jesus (workshopping some nicknames here) and ending up with McDermott is tough. It doesn’t matter he’s shooting 43 percent from three. It’s just not the same.
The Nets should look to continue making perimeter shots difficult for the Pacers to get off, which is something they do better than basically everyone in the league, and if they get a little momentum bump they might be able to pull this win out. It’s gonna be a fun one.
IF THE NETS WIN
- It would extend Brooklyn’s season-best winning streak to eight games. The Nets own the longest active winning streak in the league (no other team in the East is in the midst of a winning streak longer than three games).
- The last time the Nets won more than seven straight games came in the 2005-06 season, when they won a franchise-record-tying 14 straight games from March 2 – April 6. This was the streak that started with Byron Scott being tossed from a game. Lawrence Frank filled in and then took over the next game when Rod Thorn dumped Scott.
- The Nets have won more than seven straight games five times in franchise history, all before they landed in Brooklyn. This would be their sixth.
- It would mark Brooklyn’s fifth straight home victory, which would be the Nets’ longest home winning streak within a single season since winning five straight at Barclays Center in the 2014-15 season.
- It would snap Brooklyn’s eight-game losing skid against the Pacers (last win: 103-94 in the 2016-17 home opener on October 28 at Barclays Center.
Player To Watch
Domantas Sabonis has a body made of steel and seemingly never misses a shot. The Nets could struggle with his size and strength as they tend to do against gigantic and talented big men. He’s averaging 14.1 points and 9.9 rebounds in just over 24 minutes a game, which scales up to 20.5 and 14.4 per 36 minutes. He’s shooting 62 percent from the field, fouls a ton, and is a lot of fun to watch. He’s also the son of former NBA player Arvydas Sabonis and sometimes those guys just have an extra level to their game. Just ask the Warriors. Don’t ask anyone who’s had Austin Rivers though. Not even Doc.
From The Vault
The last time the Nets had a winning streak this long I was a junior in high school. On Thursday, I went to my last day of college ever. Wild. Here are some relics from that era. Wish me luck in the real world.
For a different perspective, head on over to Indy Cornrows, our sister Pacer site on SB Nation.