The Nets, on the verge of seeing their season slip away — if it hasn’t already — don’t play again until Monday, meaning they have some time to try to figure out why they’ve played so poorly not just over their previous eight games, but really since the middle of December.
But two days of practice ahead of their game against the Cavaliers in Paris didn’t help the situation, and they seem no closer to finding any answers.
There has been debate about whether Cam Thomas should rejoin the starting unit, since he hasn’t started since Dec. 27 in a loss to the Bucks. Head coach Jacque Vaughn, though, warned that makes the team “pretty small.”
Still, it was Thomas, along with Lonnie Walker IV, who came off the bench versus Cleveland and got the Nets back in the game after a dreadful first half. Vaughn praised not just Thomas’ scoring ability after he matched Mikal Bridges with a team-high 26 points, but also his willingness to box out and rebound.
The 34:30 minutes of action was the most Thomas had seen since Dec. 18, and he ended up with his best-scoring night since that game against Cleveland. It followed a dud for Thomas against Portland last Sunday, when he finished with just nine points in 17:53.
The Nets also need to get more out of Bridges, who played well in the loss to Portland but has otherwise struggled for much of Brooklyn’s recent poor stretch.
On Dec. 13, the Nets were 12-10. They have fallen to 16-22.
Not surprisingly, that’s when Bridges was playing his best this season.
In those first 22 games of the season, he scored 23.1 points per game, grabbed six rebounds and had four assists per game. And he was shooting 49.2 percent from the field.
Over his past 16 games, all those numbers have dropped noticeably. Bridges is scoring 18.8 points per game, with 4.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists.
Perhaps most worrisome is his shooting percentage has sunk to 38.9.
“We’ve got to be way better,’’ Bridges said following the loss in France.
Vaughn also noted the team didn’t shoot well from 3-point range against Cleveland. It was the fourth time in six games the Nets have hit less than 30 percent of their 3-pointers.
They were shooting 37.9 percent from 3-point range before that bad stretch and Vaughn noted it was particularly impactful in the defeat to Cleveland. It made Thomas’ success at breaking down defenders and getting the ball out to teammates for corner 3-pointers less effective, since the Nets were unable to capitalize. Only Walker was good from that area, hitting four of his five attempts. The rest of the Nets combined to go just 4-for-22.
Perhaps a return to health for Spencer Dinwiddie, who — like Dorian Finney-Smith — needed an IV to get through the game in France, will help.
And they continue to wait for Ben Simmons, who has advanced to light on-court work with coaches, according to the team.
But if they don’t pick up their play soon, even Simmons’ return might not mean much.