The Brooklyn Nets and host Portland Trail Blazers are mired in long losing stretches, but one team is about to experience a happy night when the teams square off on Wednesday.
Neither club has fared well as of late, but Brooklyn likely feels more urgency, beginning a three-game road swing that includes games against the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers.
The Nets have lost three straight games, eight of nine and 13 of 16 while sinking to seven games below .500.
The Trail Blazers have dropped four consecutive games, seven of eight and 17 of 21 and own the second-worst record in the Western Conference.
Portland recently ended a 1-6 road trip in which the losses were by an average of 33.2 points. One of the setbacks was by 62 points against the Oklahoma City Thunder, matching the fifth-worst margin of defeat in NBA history.
The lone victory was against Brooklyn, 134-127 in overtime on Jan. 7.
Anfernee Simons recorded 38 points and 11 assists for the Trail Blazers, while Mikal Bridges poured in 42 points for the Nets.
That victory remains Portland’s only one since the calendar turned to 2024. Brooklyn also has just one win in 2024.
The Trail Blazers were severely short-handed during their 127-116 home loss to the Phoenix Suns on Sunday.
Deandre Ayton (knee) missed his 11th consecutive game. Blazers second-leading scorer Jerami Grant and Matisse Thybulle were game-day scratches due to illnesses, and Malcolm Brogdon (adductor) and Shaedon Sharpe (adductor) also were out.
On Monday, the Trail Blazers announced that Sharpe will be sidelined for at least two more weeks.
After the loss to Phoenix, Blazers coach Chauncey Billups shook his head in disbelief over the season-long rash of injuries.
“We were incredibly undermanned, obviously, in the game, but I told the guys, ‘Play fast, have fun, share the ball and help each other on defense,'” Billups said. “‘Just play free.’ And they did that, and it was just fun.
“It was fun watching them, it was fun coaching. So many guys played well.”
Rookie point guard Scoot Henderson had the most fun. The No. 3 overall pick of the 2023 draft scored a career-high 33 points and added nine assists.
Brooklyn is coming off a 96-95 home loss against the Heat on Monday. Jimmy Butler made two free throws with 11.8 seconds remaining in overtime to give Miami the victory.
Bridges air-balled a contested floater with just over a second remaining.
“We just wanted whoever got it, me or Mikal, just get downhill to try and get the best shot we can,” Nets guard Cam Thomas said. “That was the best shot he could’ve got, I guess. We just have to live with that.”
Bridges scored 26 points and Thomas added 23.
Thomas and Dennis Smith Jr. each played 32 minutes off the bench while starter Spencer Dinwiddie played just 20 minutes, scoring three points on 1-of-6 shooting.
“I’ve always talked about this being performance-based,” Brooklyn coach Jacque Vaughn said. “I thought Dennis had a good attack for us defensively. We’re just in a position right now where you have to perform, and that’s across the board. So that’s a challenge to the entire group from the beginning of the game to the end to be locked-in and to give everything you have on both ends of the floor.
“We have a pretty open offense where the ballhandler can attack and be aggressive on a nightly basis, which is unselfish and is for the benefit of the group. So there’s no blockade from allowing that to happen by individuals on the team. Just ask you to make the right play. But it’ll always be performance-based, and even more so now.”
–Field Level Media
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