The Brooklyn Nets have had to do without Kyrie Irving for the last three games due to the All-Star guard suffering a right shoulder impingement. Against the Chicago Bulls last Saturday, the Nets squeaked a win 117-117 win, led by Spencer Dinwiddie’s team-leading 24 points.
Dinwiddie; one of the premier bench players in the league, moved into the starting line-up due to Irving’s absence and impressed despite going 0-4 from three. Dinwiddie had a James Harden-eqsue free-throw stat-line, shooting 14-15 from the line.
Three-point champion Joe Harris scored 22 points and had a career-high eight assists. Harris was able to have the ball in his hands more and show off his playmaking skills as well as his elite shooting; which was not on show against the Bulls shooting just 2-8 from the perimeter.
The Nets played a second consecutive game without Kyrie against the 7-6 Indiana Pacers and were emphatically blown out by 29 points in a 115-86 defeat. The Holiday brothers balled out for the Pacers; Aaron Holiday putting up 24 points and 13 assists while older brother Justin Holiday scoring 20 points.
Spencer Dinwiddie had a 28-point performance and was the only Nets player to score over 10 points in the game. The team as a whole had a woeful night, shooting just 35.7% from the field, 32.4% from the three-point line and 62.5% from the free-throw line.
Can the Nets Stay in the Playoff Picture Without a Big Name in the Lineup?
The Nets stand at 5-8 and with the loss to the Pacers, they dropped out of the playoff places and into ninth in the Eastern Conference. Without Kevin Durant, Caris LeVert; the latter who is expected to be out for five weeks with thumb surgery as well as the absence of Kyrie Irving, the Nets could end up falling further down the Eastern Conference.
The Nets have a hugely important next four games coming up against the Charlotte Hornets, the Sacramento Kings, the New York Knicks, and the New York Knicks. These are all winnable games for the Nets, and they must accumulate as many wins as they can without their stars to keep them afloat in their playoff hunt.
The Nets had a similar record to last season and seemed out of the playoff race by All-Star break before a resurgence that boosted them to 6th in the Eastern Conference. However, the Eastern Conference is better than last season despite the departure of reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard to the Los Angeles Clippers of the Western Conference.
There are at least six teams in the Eastern Conference that have won eight or more games this season and that’s with teams like the Boston Celtics, the Milwaukee Bucks, the Indiana Pacers and the Toronto Raptors missing key pieces such as Gordon Hayward, Khris Middleton, Victor Oladipo, Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka.
The Nets next face the 8th placed Charlotte Hornets on Thursday who yesterday got blown out by 36 points by the Toronto Raptors in a 132-96 defeat. It’s a must-win for the Nets against a team low in confidence.