Mike James, Nets look to keep rolling vs. Pacers

NBA

The Eastern Conference-leading Brooklyn Nets aim for their fourth consecutive win on Thursday when they travel to Indianapolis to face the Indiana Pacers.

Despite getting just nine points from Kyrie Irving and 17 points from Kevin Durant — 17.9 and 10.1 below their averages — Brooklyn (42-20) showed off its balance in a 116-103 comeback win Tuesday over Toronto.

Seven Nets scored in double figures in the win, including Mike James with 11 points. His seven-point burst fueled a critical run in the fourth quarter, and James’ eight assists helped key Brooklyn’s spread-out scoring.

A longtime standout in EuroLeague, James signed a 10-day contract with Brooklyn on April 23 after completing the regular season with CSKA Moscow.

“He’s an athletic and skilled player,” Nets coach Steve Nash said of James in Tuesday’s postgame press conference. “If he can be that guard that ups the pace, that penetrates, draws the defense and makes the extra pass, that’s a huge benefit for our team.”

Injuries have thinned out Brooklyn’s ranks, most notably with former Most Valuable Player James Harden limited to just a little more than four minutes of game time in April due to a strained right hamstring.

But the Nets were also without Bruce Brown (knee), Chris Chiozza (hand), Nicolas Claxton and Alize Johnson (health and safety protocols) on Tuesday, leaving Nash to play an eight-man rotation. All three players who came off the bench — James, Blake Griffin and Tyler Johnson — scored in double figures.

While Brooklyn’s injury-ravaged lineup extended its winning streak to three games on Tuesday, Indiana (29-32) saw its three-game winning streak end.

The Pacers were without Domantas Sabonis (back), Jeremy Lamb (knee) and Goga Bitadze (ankle) Tuesday, while still missing Myles Turner, who has not played since April 18 due to a toe injury.

Short-handed Indiana’s 133-112 setback did not cost it ground in the race for one of four play-in tournament spots. The Pacers remain one game behind Charlotte for the eighth spot through Tuesday’s competition.

Seeds No. 7 and 8 need to win one game to advance to the NBA playoffs; seeds No. 9 and 10 would need to win twice in order to qualify.

With Sabonis and his 11.6-rebound per game production out against Portland, Indiana allowed 20 offensive rebounds that the Trail Blazers converted into 21 second-chance points.

The absence of Sabonis did not help matters, but giving up offensive boards has been a recurring issue for the Pacers. Their per-game yield of 11.2 is most in the NBA.

“We’ll go back and look at all the offensive they did have, just to see if we were doing our job on (boxing out),” Indiana coach Nate Bjorkgren said in his postgame press conference. “I think we missed some of those early. Some of those … we were just oversized.”

The Nets average only nine offensive rebounds per game, but that is a byproduct of shooting a league-best 49.3 percent from the floor. That translates to the NBA’s second-highest scoring average of 118.7 points per game.

In its previous matchups with Indiana, both Nets wins, Brooklyn scored 104 and 124 points.

–Field Level Media

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