In the midst of their first winning streak of the season -- two games is a winning streak! -- the Brooklyn Nets stay home for just their second streak of consecutive home games on the season, taking on the 14-8 Los Angeles Clippers. The game is broadcast nationally, only on TNT.
A lot of reunions in the last few days: after the Nets, armed with former Boston Celtics forwards Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, beat the Celtics 104-96 Tuesday night, the Los Angeles Clippers, coached by former Celtics coach Doc Rivers, beat the Celtics 97-88 Wednesday night. Now, Rivers and the Clippers are in Brooklyn to take on Garnett, Pierce, and the Nets.
This is the second and last time the Nets will see this Clippers team, having lost the first matchup 110-103 in Los Angeles on November 16th without Deron Williams, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Brook Lopez, who were all nursing various injuries. Of course, that'll change tonight.
Lopez returned six games ago, and Williams is finally back, punctuating his emphatic return with a game-high 25 points and 7 assists in the team's win over the Boston Celtics, using drag screens to get going in transition. Pierce, who missed the game with a strained groin, will most likely come off the bench in what could turn into a long-term 6th-man role for the future Hall of Fame forward. Garnett may sit, but that's only if head coach Jason Kidd wants to rest his 37-year-old on the second game of a back-to-back. After a solid defensive performance Tuesday night against the Boston Celtics, that's unlikely.
This will also mark the 20th game between Williams and Clippers point guard Chris Paul, and despite Paul's standing as the best point guard in the league, Williams has a slight statistical edge over him in their head-to-head matchups. Williams averages 16.7 points and 8.5 assists per game against Paul, shooting 50.4 percent from the field and 37.7 percent from three-point range; Paul averages 16.4 points and 9.2 assists, but shoots just 43.6 percent from the field and 29.2 percent from deep -- well below his career averages.
Plus, Williams's teams are 14-5 in the 19 games.
Still, no one controls a game like Paul, an obsessive offensive wizard with a sublime ability to set up himself and teammates in full control of the pace of the game. The one knock on his armor is his curiously declining three-point shooting: after hitting 40.9 percent of his threes in the 2009-10 season, his three-point percentage has declined steadily each year, bottoming out at the unspectacular rate of 30.4 percent so far this year. Of course, with Brooklyn's perimeter defense in the shambles it's in now, they might give him a boost tonight without even trying.
Beyond that, the Clippers are led by Lob City magistrates Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan in their frontcourt, with long-distance shooter Jamal Crawford in the backcourt. Griffin's known for his dunking but is more than a dunker offensively, DeAndre Jordan is known for what he did to Brandon Knight but is more than a destroyer. Expect to see Jamal Crawford try to make at least one defender fall with a crossover.
Game tips off at 8 P.M.
It’s amazing what adding an All-Star point guard can do.
For someone who hasn’t played much competitive basketball since the start of the season, Brooklyn Nets guard Deron Williams looked to be near peak form for much of his return against the Celtics. In turn, the Nets offense finally resembled that of a competent NBA team.
One of the big added bonuses Williams brings to the game is his ability to create, and the Nets took advantage of this ability by using drag screens to help spring Williams into some early offense.
Drag screens are ball screens set in transition, usually by trailing big men. In the second half vs. the Celtics, it was easy to see the makings of what could be considered decent offense; in semi-transition, the Nets drag-screened for Williams, allowing him to freelance and look for early opportunities for himself or others. If that gets shut down or if nothing arises, then the Nets can flow right into their primary offense for that possession.
"I felt like we played a little too slow, and we definitely needed to pick the pace up," Williams said after Tuesday's victory. "That's why I was really conscious to push the ball and try to get things going and get some easy baskets."
Let’s take a look at a few examples from Tuesday night’s win over the Boston Celtics.
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Some Nets news and notes from around the 'net:
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Kidd & Frank developed a professional relationship, one that ultimately led to Kidd publicly imploring Frank to join him on the sidelines as his top assistant once Kidd earned the head coaching job... only to dump him a month into the season.
The New York Post recently caught up with the former coach and asked his opinion of the well-publicized Frank-Kidd breakup. ... MORE →
The Brooklyn Nets have underwhelmed this season. At 7-14, they've only just begun their first winning streak. But think of it this way: the team hasn't inspired a rant as bad as the one by this New York Knicks fan below from any of you. I don't know if I've ever seen a man so mad at his basketball team, ever:
The Brooklyn Nets began their first winning streak Tuesday night, defeating the Boston Celtics 104-96 and enjoying dominant performances from Deron Williams and Brook Lopez. But the most interesting performance was a player who didn't even start and finished with just four points: Paul Pierce.
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While Deron Williams put the finishing touches on a Brooklyn Nets victory, it was Brook Lopez who helped them get there in the first half. Lopez dominated the first half, scoring 16 points on 7-8 shooting, and bullied every opponent the Boston Celtics threw at him. Lopez shot straight through and over Jared Sullinger, Vitor Faverani, and Kris Humphries, and nobody on the Celtics could do anything to stop him:
Though most of the focus was on Williams -- who played his best game of the season upon his return from an ankle sprain -- Lopez's teammates recognized his excellent post game, one he finished with 24 points on 10-13 shooting.
"We want to (go through Lopez) every game," Williams glowed. "We feel like he has an advantage most nights, if not every night, so we're gonna play through him. They came and doubled him and he made great plays out of the double-team."
His increased awareness and ability to attack against double-teams is something we've also noticed this season.
After the Brooklyn Nets picked up a 104-93 victory over the Boston Celtics, marking their first winning streak of the season, Nets forward Kevin Garnett was asked to describe the mood in the team's locker room compared to in November (when the team started the season 5-12), and the fierce Garnett wouldn't hold his tongue.
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Near the end of the Brooklyn Nets victory over his Boston Celtics, former Nets forward Gerald Wallace's frustration boiled over just a bit. After an intentional foul on Alan Anderson, Anderson tossed the ball in Wallace's direction, which Wallace fired back at Anderson in frustration. Nets teammates quickly pointed out Wallace's toss, and Crash was quickly assessed with a technical.
Though Anderson handed the ball somewhat innocently to Wallace, it's like the old saying goes: they never get the guy who throws the first shot.