Nets look to snap skid against WarriorsAfter two days off, Brooklyn hopes to get back on winning track tonight
For the Warriors, an 11-7 start under Mark Jackson has them just a game behind the Clippers in the Pacific Division. They’ve been led by the potent inside-outside combo of forward David Lee (17.6 points, 10.7 rebounds per game) and sharpshooter Stephen Curry (19.1 ppg, 42.7 percent 3-point field goal percentage), and in the absence of center Andrew Bogut, players like second-year guard Klay Thompson (16.0 ppg) and rookie Harrison Barnes (9.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg) have stepped up.
The first time the two teams met, the Nets were on the final leg of a pre-Thanksgiving West Coast swing that saw them play three games in four days, and the Warriors pulled out a 102-93 victory thanks to 48 points from their guard combo and a 20-and-13 double-double from Lee.
That day, according to Nets coach Avery Johnson, the effects of the schedule caught up with his team a bit, and the Warriors did a good job exploiting that.
“In that first game, I thought our team didn’t have what I call “back-to-back energy,” and I think there was some negative carryover from the night before,” Johnson said. “(The Warriors) did a good job getting separation on pick-and-rolls and screens, ans we were a step or two slow. They were just quicker and faster than we were, and we had trouble defending the paint.”
The Nets will likely be much more well-rested for tonight’s game, as the team hasn’t had a full practice since Tuesday’s loss to Oklahoma City. Coming out of a stretch that say them play nine games in 14 days – with the OKC game being their 10th in 17 – Johnson gave what he called the “heavy minutes guys” Wednesday and Thursday off, instead choosing to work with a smaller group of reserves.
Johnson hopes that strategy works as well for the entire group as it did for Deron Williams, who had last Sunday and Monday off before exploding for 33 points and a quintet of 3-pointers in the loss to the Thunder. The coach said after Tuesday’s game that another pair of off-days, Williams would have the same energy tonight, and the remainder of the team should as well.
“We went through a real rough stretch where we had nine games in 14 days, and a lot of our guys were dealing with some bangs and bruises, but (Deron) had good energy and I think you’re going to see that continue,” he said.
Even with most of the team – including Reggie Evans, who missed Tuesday’s game with the flu – back at full strength, the Nets will again be without Brook Lopez, who will sit out his fourth straight game with a sprained foot. In his absence, however, Andray Blatche has averaged 17.7 points and 9.3 rebounds as a starter, and Johnson believes the nominal leader of Brooklyn’s “bench mob” will step up once again.
“Andray is a confident player; he still, in his mind, think he’s a starter, and I think the program and the plan we have him on, he sees the benefits of it,” Johnson said on a Thursday conference call. “When he came in today, he came in with a great attitude, got his work done. He wants to be in the system, wants to be held accountable and that’s what’s causing him to really thrive.”
All that said, between the extra rest and the time to study the Warriors, Johnson knows it’s all for naught if his team can’t get it done on the hardwood – but he’s confident they will.
“I think you’ll see a different team from start to finish; I think we’ll have better energy, and we’ll be rested and ready to even up the season series,” he said, before adding in a final line that beams pride in his team’s 7-2 record at Barclays Center. “They defended their home court. We have to do the same.”
Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES