Nets to face Eastern Conference leading Pacers
Coach Jason Kidd's team lost an especially important piece its last time out.
In their first game after Brook Lopez was ruled out for the season, the Nets host the Eastern Conference-leading Indiana Pacers on Monday night.
Lopez, averaging a team-leading 20.7 points, broke a bone in his right foot during Friday's 121-120 overtime loss at Philadelphia. The All-Star center suffered the same injury, a fractured fifth metatarsal, when he was limited to five games in 2011-12.
Lopez, who also underwent offseason surgery to replace a bent screw in the foot, had also missed nine games this season with ankle trouble. Brooklyn is 2-7 without him.
"It's almost like we can't catch a break. It's always something every day, every other day somebody goes down. One man comes back, somebody goes down," said Joe Johnson, who didn't play against the 76ers due to personal reasons. "It's been tough because it's hard to gain any chemistry with guys in and out, but I just hate it for the big fella."
Deron Williams is averaging 17.8 points and 10.0 assists over a six-game stretch since returning from a sprained ankle. The Nets (9-17) could also get a boost from Andrei Kirilenko (back) and Jason Terry (knee), who are both near returning.
"We got guys in here that's capable and I think the mentality is not going to change in here," said Paul Pierce, who missed four games with a broken hand Nov. 30-Dec.7. "We can't use that as an excuse. We have to come out here and continue to do our jobs each and every day regardless of who's out there. We dealt with the injury bug all year."
As if playing without Lopez wasn't daunting enough, the Nets now face the Pacers (22-5), who enter Brooklyn on a tear. Two days after blowing out Houston 114-81, Indiana cruised to a 106-79 win over Boston on Sunday.
Paul George led the way with 24 points and Lance Stephenson scored 12 to go along with 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his NBA-leading third triple-double.
"We're starting the game off with high energy and we're ending the game with high energy and in between we're maintaining that energy," said George, averaging a team-leading 23.9 points. "It wears teams down, and I think that's been the case these past couple games."
After shooting 1 of 7 and finishing with five points in his season debut Friday, Danny Granger scored 12 while making 4 of 5 from 3-point range.
"Adding Granger is scary," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "I think the more comfortable he gets, the better they'll be. I think they're already if not the leader for the hunt, they're in the hunt."
Sunday's game opened a 12-game stretch during which the Pacers will face 11 teams that currently have losing records.
"We are a tough basketball team, we know that we can play, we know that we can improve," George said. "We are having fun out there because we are getting to know each other better."
The Pacers had dropped four straight to the Nets before winning 96-91 at Barclays Center on Nov. 9 behind 24 points from George. Indiana is 11-4 versus Brooklyn since the start of 2009-10.
Though Granger has missed the last four meetings in the series, he's averaged 21.1 points in his last 15 games against the Nets.