While the Brooklyn Nets are getting plenty from Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on offense, their defense is struggling to match the production of the star duo.
Coming off three straight difficult defensive showings, the Nets hope they can correct some of their early deficiencies Saturday night when they host the Indiana Pacers for the first of two straight head-to-head matchups.
The Nets will face the Pacers again on Monday before they host the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday ahead of a stretch in which 10 of their next 12 are on the road. By the time they hit the road, the Nets hope to see some improvement from a defense that is allowing 121.6 points per game, the third-worst average in the NBA. Only the San Antonio Spurs (122 ppg) and Detroit Pistons (122.8 ppg) are worse.
After splitting its first two games (a 22-point loss to the New Orleans Pelicans and a four-point win over the Toronto Raptors), Brooklyn struggled to contain the offenses of the Memphis Grizzlies, Milwaukee Bucks and Dallas Mavericks.
The Nets fell apart in the second half in Memphis and Milwaukee, then came up short in a 129-125 overtime loss to Dallas on Thursday. Brooklyn allowed 41 points to Mavericks star Luka Doncic after giving up 43 to the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo and 38 apiece to the Grizzlies’ Ja Morant and Desmond Bane.
“Every star player has come in here and had 35-plus or 30-plus (points),” Irving said. “And that’s just not good enough in this league.”
On Thursday, Irving, who is averaging 29.6 points, led the Nets with 39. Durant, who is putting up 33.2 points per game, added 37 against Dallas, including the tying basket late in regulation.
“We’re trying to find an identity and find a cohesion,” Brooklyn coach Steve Nash said. “Once we get a more full rotation, we’ll get a look at what this team is. So right now, it’s showing our character and continuing to fight for one another.”
The Nets will get Joe Harris back after he rested on the second night of a back-to-back as he eases into his return to action following ankle surgery.
Brooklyn’s Seth Curry is questionable to make his season debut after he underwent offseason ankle surgery. He appeared in 19 games with the Nets last season after they obtained him from Philadelphia along with Ben Simmons for James Harden, and he put up 14.9 points per contest.
Although the Pacers are allowing 121.2 points per game, they started their 127-117 road win over the Washington Wizards on Friday much better, allowing 28 points and 39.1 percent shooting during the opening quarter.
The Pacers led by as many 20, scored 75 by halftime and fended off a late charge in the final minutes as assistant Lloyd Pierce coached the team while Rick Carlisle attended an event for his daughter.
“I think that was the most important thing we saw today was our defense really started off strong,” Pierce said postgame. “We were into them. They felt us, and it just created (an) opportunity for us to rebound, run and create more opportunities at the rim.”
Besides the defense, perhaps the other encouraging sign was Myles Turner dominating in his second game back from missing nine months due to an ankle injury. After scoring five in his season debut Wednesday during Indiana’s loss to the Chicago Bulls, Turner led the Pacers with 27 points at Washington. He added 10 rebounds and five blocks in 32 minutes.
Indiana also got 25 points apiece from Buddy Hield and Tyrese Haliburton.
The Nets have won the past seven meetings with the Pacers, including all three matchups last season.
–Field Level Media