Opponent: Brooklyn Nets
Starting Lineup: Spencer Dinwiddie – Caris Levert – Joe Harris – Taurean Prince – Jarrett Allen
Second Unit: Garrett Temple – Wilson Chandler – Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot – DeAndre Jordan
Leading Scorer: Dinwiddie (21 PPG)
Leading Rebounder: Jordan (9.7 RPG)
Leading Assists: Dinwiddie (6.5 APG)
Biggest Strength: Interior defense
Brooklyn’s overall defense hasn’t been anything to call home about, but if there is one thing they are excelling at it’s their interior defense and effectiveness around the rim. Despite being ranked 18th in the NBA in scoring defense, opponent’s field goal percentage in the paint is below league-average against the Nets. A lot of this can be attributed to Allen being an emerging rim-protector in this league, but Jordan has shown he can hold his own defensively against bench units. The advanced stats back this up, as Jordan and Allen lead the Nets in DPM and DWS. Now, Jordan will get a heavy dose of Domantas Sabonis in the second unit, which will be difficult for him, but overall they have been stout defensively in the paint this year.
Biggest Weakness: Shooting
The Nets are not good at shooting three-pointers, which is a problem because they like to shoot a lot of them. They rank 25th in the league in three-point shooting percentage, despite ranking sixth in attempts per game. That’s not ideal. Outside of Harris, they don’t have any knockdown shooters while Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant are injured. Guys like Prince, Levert and Chandler can get hot in certain matchups, but they have very few players who consistently strike fear in opponent’s defenses from deep, and the statistics back that up.
The X-Factor: Levert
Without Irving and Durant, the majority of their scoring punch comes from Dinwiddie and Levert. Dinwiddie has shown he can contribute offensively at an elite level consistently, but can Levert? While he’s been in and out of the lineup this year with injuries, he’s yet to find a rhythm on the floor. However, he continues to show flashes that he can be a true second-option for a playoff team. If he can’t get it going against the Indiana Pacers though, then it’s tough to find where they will generate enough points to keep up.
It was always about next season for the Nets, since that is when Durant will be back and healthy, but this year wasn’t supposed to be this much of a struggle. That’s mainly because of Irving’s injuries, but several of their role players like Harris and Chandler aren’t as effective as they’ve been in years prior. Dinwiddie continues to get better every year though, and he can carry them to wins even when Irving is hurt. Without Irving and Durant, most of their power comes from Dinwiddie, Levert and the center rotation. Will that be enough against the struggling Pacers?