The Nets will put their six-game home winning streak on the line tonight when they take on the defending Western Conference Champion Oklahoma City Thunder at Barclays Center.
Brooklyn will once again be without the services of Brook Lopez, who is still day-to-day with a mild foot sprain, but they will also be without Reggie Evans tonight, who has the flu and is inactive. Between the two, they’ll be missing their leading scoring and rebounding presences down low against Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka (14.4 points, 7.6 rebounds per game, and coach Avery Johnson said that it’s all hands on deck tonight against one of the better frontcourts in the NBA.
“We pride ourselves on having depth; those guys are very important to our team, so tonight you’ll probably see some lineups you haven’t seen, and see guys play a little more tonight that haven’t played as much recently,” Johnson said. “Everything’s on the table tonight, because those two guys are a major part of what we’re all about.”
The Nets are coming off a 13-point loss in Miami Saturday, one that came in a game they led by nine at halftime, and Johnson was adamant that the Nets have to play their game tonight and not get caught up in chasing the Thunder.
“We’re going to have to play more of a 48-minute game tonight than we did last night; playing one half won’t cut it,” Johnson said. “We have our own pace, and we’re not going to be very good playing at the Thunder’s pace; we tend to be a better fast-breaking team in the first half, but if we can play really good defense and get out on the break early, we’re a much better team.”
That was the final game of a three-game trip that saw Brooklyn play thrice in four days, and Johnson hopes some home cooking will help the Nets rebound; they have won six straight and seven of eight overall at Barclays Center, and the crowd will surely be a huge sixth man against the Thunder again tonight.
“Any time we can have a chance to play at home, it’s great for us, because it’s a great atmosphere; the fans are really into the game, and we get a lot of energy here, and that’s what we aspire for,” Johnson said. “Tonight, this is the game we’re focused on, and it’s a pretty monumental task playing against a team that’s been together and represented the Western Conference (in the NBA Finals).”
Deron Williams could be a key tonight for the Nets; D-Will is fourth in the league in assists per game this season with 8.9 – just ahead of OKC’s Russell Westbrook – and is averaging 24 points and 11.4 assists in his last six games against the Thunder. Most of those games came with a Nets team that Williams often had to carry at times, but Williams played this summer with Durant and Westbrook in the Olympics, so he knows his enemy and Johnson isn’t worried about Williams’ transition.
“(This season) has been a little bit of an adjustment, trying to figure out when to take the game over, when to pass and get other guys involved,” Johnson said, “and I think there’s been a fine line with that this year, but he’ll figure it out more and more.”