Preview: Nets vs. Lakers

The Brooklyn Nets are headed west for their first extended road trip of the season. After single-game trips to Indiana and Orlando and a local away game against the Knicks, they’ll have five road games over nine days, beginning with tonight’s game in Los Angeles against the Lakers, scheduled for a 10:30 p.m. Eastern start.

“I definitely think we can take some positives out of it,” said Trevor Booker of the trip that will take the Nets to Phoenix, Denver, Portland and Utah. “We’re hitting the road, so that’s going to give us time to go out and bond together, team dinners, and keep building that chemistry.”

The Nets hit the road having lost their last three games after a 3-2 start to the season. They’ve also dropped all three of their road games; a shootout on opening night in Indiana, a tight loss at Orlando and a game that got away from them after halftime against the Knicks.

Picking up a road win and generally playing better away from Barclays Center are goals, so coach Kenny Atkinson sees the trip as an opportunity.

“I look at it as a positive,” said Atkinson. “My experiences in the NBA have been, these are the types of trips that bring you together. It’s even more adversity and tougher. I think it’s a great test for our group. I remember just last year we were going through a tough stretch when we went out to the West and brought it together and played well. Kind of kick started us on a much better finish after the All-Star break. I told the guys today this is a great opportunity for us. We’re going to be out for team dinners and great bonding and practices. There’s something when you’re on a road trip and it’s just the group of you, it brings you more together I think.”

OUT OF SYNC

After Wednesday’s loss to the Phoenix Suns, coach Kenny Atkinson offered that the Nets didn’t look quite the same as they did through the first week of the season.

“Somehow we got out of rhythm these past three games,” said Atkinson. “I felt it all night tonight. I’m not sure where that team I saw presason and those first six games (went) … it just seems like we’ve lost the rhythm.”

Brooklyn is still putting up the points. The Nets are third in the NBA with 114.6 points per game and scored 114 in Tuesday’s loss to Phoenix. They continue to attack defenses, leading the leage in field goal attempts and pace.

“The points are there,” said Trevor Booker. “I think just sharing the ball. We get away from it sometimes. I think that’s what coach means. Just sharing the ball. I think last game we had 114 points but only 15 assists. I think he’s looking for us to share the ball a little bit more. Individually, my personal concern is our defense. If we can get more stops, everything else will take care of itself.”

Brooklyn’s assists are down, from 22.8 per game through their first five games to 19.0 over the last three. While most of the offensive indicators have tracked down a bit, the biggest drop has been in 2-point field goal shooting percentage. The Nets are down from 56.3 percent inside the arc over their first five games to 48.2 in the last three. That’s helped drag their overall field goal percentage down from 48.6 through five games to 43.9 through eight.

The first step to rediscovering the offensive rhythm is simply getting everybody back together, said Atkinson.

“I think getting healthy. Now that we’re starting to get pieces back and (DeMarre Carroll’s) back in the lineup, I think that’s important,” said Atkinson. “We’re still so early to have guys in and out and juggling. We’re not far enough along to sustain that. That’s important that we’re starting to get healthy and get our group together. I think that will lead to better consistency.”

When the Nets played the Hawks at Barclays Center on October 22, Atkinson talked about the process of sorting out lineups and rotations and noted that it can take a significant piece of the start of the season.

Since then, the Nets have seen Carroll, D’Angelo Russell and Jarrett Allen miss a game each with minor injuries, and Quincy Acy has missed the last three.

“We have to do a better job handling it with guys out first of all. And we have to understand that this is a big part of the NBA,” said Atkinson. “Over an 82-game season you’re going to have guys dinged up. It makes it more difficult consistency wise, especially with new players. Now you’re dealing with new players and you’re dealing with some absences. I don’t think it’s the whole reason. I think it’s part of the reason we’ve gotten out of rhythm.”

INJURY/ROSTER UPDATE

Rookie center Jarrett Allen is questionable for tonight’s game with a foot strain after missing Tuesday’s game against Phoenix. Quincy Acy is out for the third straight game with a groin strain.

Isaiah Whitehead has stayed back east, assigned to the Long Island Nets in advance of their season opener Saturday at NYCB LIVE, home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Jacob Wiley, on a two-way contract, has traveled to Los Angeles with the Nets and will be active for tonight’s game.

Coach Kenny Atkinson said Thursday that Whitehead and Wiley’s status for the remainder of the road trip had yet to be decided.

AT CENTER: RONDAE

With Jarrett Allen out on Tuesday, a stretch of small ball for the Nets was a necessity. Allen, starting center Timofey Mozgov and Tyler Zeller are the only Nets taller than 6-foot-8.

In this case, it meant 6-foot-7 Rondae Hollis-Jefferson at center as the Nets were storming back from an 18-point deficit.

“It really brought us back in the game,” said coach Kenny Atkinson. “Obviously it’s our small ball lineup. with DeMarre (Carroll) at the 4 we get a lot more shooting. We’re faster. We do suffer on the boards. But I felt like we’re down 15, we had to try something different. And you’ll see that periodically, especially because we’re down some bigs. It’s a lineup you could see sporadically.”

With 6-6 Spencer Dinwiddie on the court at the same time, it meant there was just an inch difference between Brookyn’s center and its point guard. That’s not a major outlier for the Nets. Any time 6-8 Trevor Booker or 6-7 Quincy Acy is at center, particulary with Dinwiddie rather than 6-5 D’Angelo Russell, the Nets are sending out a five of like-sized players.

Sliding over Hollis-Jefferson, the team’s starting power forward, was a little different.

“Rondae, him playing Tyson Chandler or Alex Len, his length is so long and he’s so active that we don’t feel like we’re really punished in the post,” said Atkinson. “Teams don’t post up as much and take advantage of those. And Rondae’s a really good rebounder. I do like that. I think it gives us an offensive advantage and we don’t get hurt that much defensively. If there’s one concern about that, it’s the rebounding factor. That’s where you get hurt.”

The Nets are 10th in rebounding in the NBA with 45.5 per game, but are 29th in opponent rebounding, allowing 49.1 per game. They’re also 29th in second-chance points surrendered, with 16.5 per game. All those numbers are inflated a bit by the additional shots generated by Brooklyn’s league-leading pace. Overall the Nets are being outrebounded by 3.6 rebounds per game, 25th in the league.

ABOUT THE LAKERS

The Los Angeles Lakers are 3-5 heading into their first meeting of the season with the Nets after dropping a 113-110 final to Portland Thursday night. Former Net Brook Lopez had a season-high 27 points for the Lakers in the loss. Lopez, the longest-tenured player in Nets history, is averaging 13.6 points for the Lakers in his first season with Los Angeles since being traded last June.

The Lakers have been going to the rim for scoring, leading the league in points in the paint with 55.3 and second in fast break points with 15.5. They’re less successful on the perimeter, 26th in 3-point attempts per game and 30th in percentage (29.8).

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