Brooklyn Nets

Pacers acts as Nets’ final test before All-Star break

When: 7:30 p.m.

Where: Barclays Center

Watch: YES Network/Fox Sports GO 

Listen: 101.9 FM, 660 AM

Photo courtesy YES Network

The losses keep piling up for the Brooklyn Nets. The team found itself on the unfortunate end of a big lead again, providing little resistance to the Los Angeles Clippers. While the Nets attempted their usual fourth-quarter comeback to keep the game entertaining, the Clippers tightened up, keeping the Nets at bay. It was a 114-101 loss for Brooklyn, who trailed by as many as 23 points. It was the team’s sixth straight loss, leaving them winless still in the month of February.

In their final game before the All-Star break, the Nets will take on the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers are probably the biggest surprise in the NBA, currently holding the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. At the beginning of the season, they were predicted to be a lottery team, but the superstar level play of Victor Oladipo has made them serious competition in the East.

Wednesday night’s Valentine’s Day contest will be the fourth and final meeting between the Nets and Pacers. Indiana has won all three previous contests, and in their matchup on Dec. 23, the Nets were able to force overtime but came up short, 123-119. Brooklyn will try to finally beat the Pacers and break the losing streak on Wednesday before an eight-day break.

Here are three things to watch for in Pacers-Nets!

Missing Caris and Rondae

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has not played since the Nets’ game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Jan. 26, and Caris LeVert has not played since Feb. 6 after suffering a concussion and right knee sprain against the Houston Rockets. Both will be out again for Wednesday’s matchup against Indiana. The absence of the Nets’ two young players has been a major blow to the team, and a likely catalyst in the team’s recent skid. Against the Pacers, the Nets will again try to replicate the impact of these two players.

The absence of Hollis-Jefferson may be the biggest blow to the Nets. RHJ is the Nets’ leading scorer (that has played more than 30 games), providing versatility on defense and solid scoring on offense. His absence has disrupted the flow of the Nets’ lineups, forcing steady hand Joe Harris to enter the starting lineup and DeMarre Carroll to slide to the four spot. While those two are solid, the two are more perimeter oriented. The beauty of RHJ’s game comes from his reliability to score in the paint. Without him, the Nets have struggled to score inside the paint and draw fouls.

Matching Myles

Myles Turner, the third-year big man, may not be having the breakout year that many expected, but he has torched the Nets this season. In the Pacers’ three prior games against Brooklyn, Turner has averaged 20.0 points and 9.7 rebounds, with an unreal true shooting percentage of 77.2 percent.

He’s a skilled big. The Nets have had nightmares about players like Turner this season, and he could be a major factor heading into Wednesday’s game.

Jarrett Allen will have to try his best to stop Turner on the perimeter and in the post. Allen has struggled as of late in matching up with the physicality of starting-caliber bigs, but it is a learning process. The same goes for Jahlil Okafor and Quincy Acy — defending the pick and roll and paying attention to detail on defense should be paramount. Stopping Turner should be a key point of emphasis for Kenny Atkinson’s strategy.

Don’t Fall in Love with the Perimeter

This is the closest to a Valentine’s Day bullet point heading into Nets-Pacers. Over the last six games, the Nets have been infatuated by three-point shots, shooting 37.6 of them per game. Unfortunately, that love has gone unrequited. Despite Brooklyn’s penchant for the long ball, they are 23rd in the league in three-point percentage over the last six games, shooting 33.6 percent. It is understandable that the Nets’ focus has been on shots from deep, but sometimes their shooting has been frustrating.

Brooklyn does not have to focus on attacking the basket every time — a strong offense may just come from shooting in rhythm. Rather than forcing up a three, maybe a few rhythm dribbles inside the arc can help a shooter find the touch. Even trying to draw foul calls (despite Brooklyn’s ongoing beef with officiating) on the inside could be more efficient than out-of-sync free throws.

Like love, the Nets should not settle. There is your life advice mixed with basketball advice for the day!

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