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Nets look to tighten defense in rematch with Pacers

Sportsnaut
Oct 29, 2022; Brooklyn, New York, USA;  Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) looks up at the scoreboard in the fourth quarter against the Indiana Pacers at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Six games in, the Brooklyn Nets are a defensive disaster — the word coach Steve Nash used after the latest loss.

Struggling to defend anyone, the Nets attempt to halt an ugly four-game losing streak Monday night when they conclude a two-game series with the visiting Indiana Pacers.

Brooklyn’s 1-5 start is its worst since it dropped the first seven games of its forgettable 2015-16 campaign. That start led to coach Lionel Hollins getting fired after 37 games, a 20-62 record and Sean Marks being hired as the general manager in February 2016.

On Saturday, the Nets allowed an opposing player to score at least 30 points for the fourth straight game in a 125-116 loss, resulting in a postgame players meeting. The Nets matched a team record by allowing 23 3-pointers, the second straight time they allowed an opponent to make half of its 3-point tries after Dallas hit 20 in Thursday’s 129-125 overtime loss.

“It was a disaster,” Nash said. “How else do you say it? I didn’t see the will. Didn’t see the desire or the connectivity necessary to get stops and get rebounds.”

After Saturday’s loss, the Nets are allowing 122.2 points per game and a league-worst 43.8 percent shooting from 3-point range.

“We’ve lost a couple games,” Nash said. “It’s shook our mentality hard and we’re not seeing the same competitive spirit, same purpose. If we don’t clean that up it’s not going to get better.”

Kyrie Irving scored 35 points, reaching 30 for the fourth time in five games but his latest productive showing was overshadowed by another controversy. On Thursday he appeared to tweet support for an antisemitic film, prompting team owner Joe Tsai to tweet his disappointment and condemnation.

Indiana is hoping to benefit from Brooklyn’s defensive difficulties and get a third straight win. The Pacers hit 15 3-pointers Friday in a 127-117 victory at Washington and got another big night Saturday from rookie Bennedict Mathurin and Tyrese Haliburton, who each hit six 3-pointers to go with five from Buddy Hield.

“What these guys did in Washington … national TV game against a team that was 3-1, and then tonight against a team like Brooklyn that is loaded with superstars, we’re starting to understand how hard we have to play all the time,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said.

Mathurin hit Indiana’s 23rd 3-pointer to cap a 32-point showing off the bench and is averaging 21 points in his first seven games. Haliburton added 26 and is averaging 23.4 so far after averaging 17.5 points in 26 games last season following his arrival in a trade from Sacramento.

“He’s going to be real nice, and he’s going to help us this season and going forward,” Indiana center Isaiah Jackson said of Mathurin.

Indiana is shooting 38.8 percent from behind the arc after hitting 38 3-pointers in its past two games and Saturday produced a big night while Myles Turner rested.

Turner has played two games since missing nine months due to an ankle injury. He is expected to return following two days of rest after totaling 27 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks in 32 minutes Friday.

–Field Level Media