Now that the Pacers have come back down to Earth, the Brooklyn Nets await them tonight for their first back-to-back set of the season.
The Nets have been collecting draft picks, using them well and rebuilding since they had to dismantle following terrible trades for aged veterans with mammoth contracts (Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Deron Williams) that destroyed their salary cap.
They need more depth and talent, but coach Kenny Atkinson seems to be the perfect fit. Before coming to Brooklyn in 2016, he spent the previous three years as an assistant with the Atlanta Hawks under Mike Budenholzer.
Budenholzer has revamped the Milwaukee Bucks, who torched the Pacers 118-101 on Friday, into a 5-out, prolific 3-point shooting offense that thrives on random play with a superstar (Giannis Antetokounmpo). The Nets still need that superstar though DeAngelo Russell, Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert aren’t a bad start:
► They like to jam the ball, meaning the Nets try to deny handoffs and not allow guards and wings to get them cleanly from the high post and turn into the lane. This is a team that fights through screens so they must be solid. They don’t bail themselves out by switching unless it is to their benefit. The Pacers, who have 37 turnovers through two games, haven’t been crisp in their ball-handling which is why the way Brooklyn defends is a factor. In their loss to Milwaukee, the Pacers had countless plays that weren’t turnovers disrupted by deflections as the Bucks stayed in the passing lanes.
► A lot of two-man game between Russell and Allen and even more pistol aka three-man action involving LeVert. The pistol is designed for quick hits early in the shot clock and LeVert likes to probe the defense, allow the traffic to clear and or knife through small openings to get to the rim. It’s a lot of random play based off reads. The big man stays lifted at the top of the key to screen for his guards (like Milwaukee) to keep the lane open. Allen rarely posts up and will disappear to the opposite corner to spot up for 3s though he doesn’t shoot high volume like the Pacers just witnessed with Brook Lopez and Ersan Ilyasova. Jared Dudley is an undersized 4 so Thad Young should be able to post him up. How much help would the Nets send, if any? A lot of teams will not double the post because they’d rather 2s than 3s. The Nets will dig down with the guards to thwart those post-ups or stunt to make Young hesitate. Allen is always lurking to clean up with shot blocks to discourage the post-ups. They won’t automatically double-team to make it easy on the offense to make one pass to beat it.
► The Pacers’ second unit should have a big advantage here. The Nets, who are at least a year or two away, aren’t as deep or talented yet. They play hard. Domantas Sabonis has a size advantage on Ed Davis (not a shooter) and Tyreke Evans should be able to get to his spots to generate offense for everyone.
Follow IndyStar Pacers Insider J. Michael on Twitter at @ThisIsJMichael.