The last time the Brooklyn Nets were on the road, they showed a lack of poise in the fourth quarter against the Indiana Pacers.
Then, the Nets won six times on a season-high, seven-game homestand by demonstrating plenty of composure down the stretch. They hope their recent experience at closing games translates to another win Saturday night when they face the Pacers in Indianapolis, however they will find themselves extremely undermanned.
Brooklyn is coming off a 6-1 homestand in which five wins were decided by single digits, including a 120-116 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday. The Nets, who led most of the way, never got the lead above 12, but they made enough plays in the final minutes.
One of Brooklyn’s clutch plays was a go-ahead 3-pointer by Kevin Durant with 3:17 remaining that put the Nets ahead 111-109. The trey highlighted a 34-point showing by Durant, who averaged 32.3 points on the homestand while also playing at least 36 minutes each time.
The successful homestand occurred after the Nets folded badly in the final quarter of their 128-117 loss at Indiana on Nov. 25. In that contest, Brooklyn was outscored 40-23 during a fourth quarter in which the Pacers shot 63.2 percent and forced eight turnovers.
“Hopefully we remember what it was like going into the fourth quarter with that team, the emotion, the poise that I talked about at that time,” Brooklyn coach Jacque Vaughn said.
But it will be a different cast of characters on the court. Because Saturday is the second night of a back-to-back for the Nets, Ben Simmons isn’t playing after returning Friday following a four-game absence caused by a calf injury. Also out for injury management are T.J. Warren, who returned Dec. 2 from missing nearly two years while recovering from foot injuries; Durant (right knee), Seth Curry (left ankle) and Joe Harris (left ankle). Also not playing are Kyrie Irving (left adductor tightness), Nic Claxton (right hamstring tightness) and Royce O’Neale (personal reasons).
For 34-year-old Durant, this will be his first missed game of the season. He is averaging 30.0 points per game, fifth in the NBA.
Available for Brooklyn are Cam Thomas, Kessler Edwards, David Duke Jr., Patty Mills, Markieff Morris, Day’Ron Sharpe, Edmond Sumner, Yuta Watanabe and Alondes Williams.
Indiana is 3-5 since its most recent encounter with the Nets. After losing five times on a seven-game road trip, the Pacers improved to 8-4 at home with a 121-111 victory over the Washington Wizards on Friday night.
The Pacers hit 18 3-pointers vs. Washington after making 19 in a loss at Minnesota on Wednesday. Indiana limited the Wizards to 40 percent shooting in the second half after Washington made 64.3 percent of its field-goal attempts in the first half.
Indiana’s Buddy Hield scored a season-high 28 points on 12-of-19 shooting, including 4 of 10 from 3-point range. He has made at least four 3-pointers in four consecutive games, and he put up 26 points in the last meeting with the Nets.
“At the core, he’s a guy who is a scorer,” Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said of Hield. “That’s who he is. We need to understand that and celebrate it.”
Tyrese Haliburton added 23 points and 11 assists for his 16th double-double. He logged 26 points and 15 assists on Wednesday following a two-game absence caused by a strained groin.
“Everyone showed out today and gave us a big boost and a lot of love,” Indiana reserve forward Oshae Brissett said following the Friday victory. “We need that. The road is tough, but coming home, it feels great having everyone there.”
–Field Level Media