Last season, Nets backup point guard Spencer Dinwiddie finished third in the voting for Most Improved Player behind All-Star Victor Oladipo of the Pacers. Now Dinwiddie is in the conversation for the Sixth Man award with another Pacer, Domantas Sabonis, among others, so their head-to-head competition Friday night at Barclays Center figured to be a good sideshow.
Dinwiddie came in as the leading bench scorer in the NBA with a 17.5 average to go with 2.6 rebounds and 4.9 assists. Sabonis was the leading rebounder (9.9) among players who have started fewer than half their team’s games. He was averaging 14.1 points and 3.0 assists per game, and his .622 field-goal percentage was fifth in the NBA.
Dinwiddie had 15 points and nine assists in the Nets’ 114-106 loss to the Pacers. Sabonis had 17 points, two rebounds, three steals and five turnovers.
Nets coach Kenny Atkinson called it a “luxury” to bring Dinwiddie off the bench: “He’s basically a starter when you think about the minutes he plays [28.8 per game], the important minutes. He’s in at the end of the game.”
Atkinson worried about the 6-11 Sabonis as a potential “X-factor” and added, “His game is so efficient. He’s an elite roller, strong, can punish you in the post. It’s a very important matchup for us.”
Said Pacers coach Nate McMillan,
“Scoring, rebounding, defending, energy as a guy who facilitates and creates things for us — that’s what Sabonis does. Dinwiddie is putting up points and giving them that energy in that second group that you need.
You need a second unit that can keep things even or bring even more production, and those guys are capable of helping second units do that.”
Allen Crabbe missed his fifth straight game with right knee soreness. Atkinson said, “Allen Crabbe is taking a little more time than we thought. Nothing to put a red flag up. He’ll be back soon.” . . . Treveon Graham (hamstring) has been playing five-on-five but requires more time to regain conditioning.