Brooklyn Nets vs. Indiana Pacers
In their final game prior to the All-Star break the Brooklyn Nets seek to end a six game losing streak and enter the break on a positive note. Nets Nation will hope not to end up referring to this game as the Valentine’s Day massacre.
That’s because Indiana is rolling. having won seven of their past ten games. Moreover, this stretch of wins hasn’t been isolated to an easy strength of schedule. Rather, during this segment victories came against top squads like the Celtics and Spurs who the Pacers took down on the road.
As one of the hottest teams in the Association the Pacers may be one of the few squads who preferred the All-Star break wasn’t coming this weekend. All except Victor Oladipo who’ll make his first appearance in the big game Sunday.
Oladipo has transitioned perfectly into becoming the leading man for his new team with seasonal averages of 24.4 points, 4.1 assists, 5.4 rebounds and 2.1 steals.
The shooting guard continues to be arguably the most likely to win Most Improved Player of the season. In the last game versus the Knicks Oladipo put up huge numbers with 30 points, nine assists, eight rebounds and six steals.
Likewise, through three games versus the Nets, Oladipo has put up some big numbers and produced at a higher level each time out:
- October 18: 22 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals.
- December 17: 26 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal and connected on 4 of 6 shoots from deep.
- December 23: In the last outing Dipo delivered with 38 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists, steal and a block.
Brooklyn can’t expect to stop Oladipo from producing. However, with the Pacers next highest score being Bogdonovic (13.7) limiting Dipo’s passing lanes and isolating on keeping him below his season average would be wise.
To say Allen Crabbe has been hot would be putting too fine a point on his recent breakout. Crabbe is averaging 25.7 points in the Nets past three games and is drilling shots from deep. Of his 38 perimeter attempts during this period Crabbe has hit 16.
Meanwhile Dinwiddie continues to lead the squad and produce consistently strong performances.
In the first game between the squads Russell scored 30 points on 12 of 22 from the field. While Russell has been easing back into the game he’s had mixed success. Obviously, getting his timing back was going to take some time and there are new players for Russell to establish chemistry with.
Yet, the guards offer an advantage for Kenny Atkinson who can capitalize on his backcourt to pressure the Pacers. First, Russell should channel the opening game of the season and draw upon it to build his confidence.
Brooklyn’s backcourt height is another factor which could benefit the Nets, particularly with Collison out. Specifically, Russell 6’5, Dinwiddie 6’6″ and Crabbe 6’6″ are all bigger than their shorter counterparts (Cory Joseph 6’3″ and Oladipo 6’4″).
Defense must rue the day:
In the three previous meetings the Nets haven’t just lost the matches, they’ve allowed the Pacers to shoot lights out.
- October 18, 2017: Pacers shot 52.0 percent from field, 26.5 percent from deep, scored 140 points
- December 17, 2017: Pacers shot 56.6percent from field, 44.4 percent from deep, scored 109 points
- December 23, 2017: Pacers shot 52.2 percent from field, 43.5 percent from deep, scored 123 points
A quick scan of the three games punctuates the need to be much more aggressive on the perimeter. The October 18th game was a bit of an anomaly because it was the first game of the season. If the Nets don’t stop the Pacers from shooting above 40 percent from deep they’ll face an uphill battle the entire match. On the season the Pacers shoot 37.3 percent from the perimeter so Brooklyn must make a concerted effort to hold them to their average.