The Nets have increasingly employed one strategy with early signs of success.
Without Day’Ron Sharpe, who is out with a knee injury, the Nets have given more use to a small-ball lineup when Nic Claxton needs a break.
Without a traditional big man on the court, it usually means Dorian Finney-Smith moves to center while Cam Thomas, Royce O’Neale or Lonnie Walker IV, who recently returned from his own injury, slides into the lineup.
“We’re gonna have to play a lot more small-ball,” Cam Johnson said after practice Sunday. “[Backup center] Harry [Giles] is gonna have to step up, and guys are just gonna have to alter their roles a little bit. The one thing I think would change is you’re gonna see more small-ball. Obviously, [Claxton] has been doing a great job all year holding the paint down, but it’s hard to ask him to play 48 [minutes]. We’ll see how it goes.
“[Finney-Smith] is one of the best in the league at playing that small-ball 5. When we have it, that’s definitely on the table for us.”
The Nets used it in the second half of the team’s 111-102 loss to the Cavaliers on Thursday in Paris.
Brooklyn outscored the Cavaliers by 11 in the second half, when both Walker and Thomas came off the bench and sparked a comeback.
“What stares you in the face is our ability to play fast,” coach Jacque Vaughn said Sunday of that second-half lineup. “We have to, whether that’s early shots that sometimes we turned down to try to get better ones, sometimes that first look is going to be good for us. That ability, I thought our ability to get to the rim [stood out] and we were more physical on the defensive end of the floor.”
The Nets have not yet decided if Ben Simmons, who has been out since Nov. 6 with a nerve impingement in his back, will travel with the team on the upcoming road trip to the West Coast.
After Monday night’s game against the Heat at Barclays Center, the Nets play three straight on the road against the Trail Blazers, Lakers and Clippers.
Spencer Dinwiddie and Finney-Smith were both full participants in practice on Sunday.
Both were limited in Thursday’s loss with illnesses.
The Nets felt like the trip to Paris helped bring them closer as a team.
“I think you realize what we all sacrifice,” Vaughn said. “That piece of it. It really makes everyone human to see them around the families, whether it’s me with my wife, whether it’s my son who turned 18 and I was in Paris and not with him, so that piece of it that’s part of life and the things that you sacrifice. Or Royce’s mom being there, me to have a conversation with her. How was Royce as a young kid? Those interactions just don’t happen if you don’t have a trip like that.”