The Brooklyn Nets close out their Circus/ACC Tournament road trip versus the Dallas Mavericks. Brooklyn is still riding somewhat high, or at least they should be, following two of their better games this season.
Despite a heartbreaking loss last game versus the Atlanta Hawks, it showed that Brooklyn can hang with these teams when healthy. Compared to six or eight weeks ago, this realization should inspire hope in the players and fans alike. They’ll need it against a Dallas Mavericks team that has won four of their last five games.
Dallas is in the middle of an end of season resurgence. With wins against Oklahoma City, Memphis, Miami, and the Lakers; Dallas is looking pretty formidable thanks to their defense and three point shooting. With shooters like Matthews, Curry, and Ferrell in the starting lineup and versatile inside-out threats like Nowitzki and Barnes on the floor this team can be dangerous at times.
If Brooklyn wants to end their long road trip with a victory they need to do these three things: close out on Dallas’ shooters on the perimeter, rebound with tenacity, and avoid turnovers at all costs.
If the Mavs get hot, this game could get out of hand in a hurry for Brooklyn. Wes Matthews is one of the most respected three point shooters in the league, Seth Curry has established himself as a legitimate threat from deep, and Yogi Ferrell famously hit nine three pointers versus Portland earlier this year. Brooklyn is going to need to use all of their length and athleticism to either run Dallas off the three point line or contest every shot attempted.
Lin won’t struggle against Ferrell and LeVert should matchup with Matthews nicely, but Randy Foye will have his hands full with Curry, who stands to have a big game given matchups. He has been on a tear over the past 24 games, averaging 16.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.3 steals while shooting 52.2 percent from the floor and 46.9 percent from deep.
Both of these teams love to shoot and neither features a traditional big that grabs tons of rebounds, so this game could come down to whichever team grabs the most boards. Brooklyn attempts the fourth most threes per game while Dallas attempts the sixth most. This, plus the news that Brook will be out with an ankle injury, should really open the door for former Maverick and current Net Quincy Acy.
He stands to be the X factor for Brooklyn given his three point shooting, defensive prowess, and tenacious rebounding. He was beloved by Dallas in preseason but had to send him to the D-League in order to fill their desperate need at point guard following a rash of injuries (thanks Deron Williams, amirite?). Acy is a hard worker that is now beloved by Nets fans. With Brook’s injury and a need for rebounding, he should see the court early and often in this game.
Turnovers usually kill Brooklyn and they stand to be their Achilles Heel tonight as well. Dallas’ starting five (minus Nowitzki) can both create turnovers and capitalize on them in transition. Matthews has made a living by picking pockets and hitting threes in transition, Curry is averaging over one steal per game and is a deadly shooter, Yogi is fast and can run in transition, and Barnes is probably the biggest threat in transition given his length and athleticism.
To cut back on turnovers Atkinson shouldn’t let Sean Kilpatrick, Foye, or Hollis-Jefferson handle the ball, especially over Lin. There are too many possessions where Lin makes one pass and then doesn’t get the ball again because Kilpatrick turns it over, Foye makes an error, or Hollis-Jefferson tries to impersonate a point guard. All three of those players have their own talents, running an offense is not one of them.