When the Brooklyn Nets faced the Los Angeles Clippers two weeks ago, the elite franchise was dominating the Western Conference, humiliating opposing sides, and the Nets were still without Jeremy Lin. Now, on the crux of December, not much has changed, unfortunately. Your Nets are current losers of seven-straight games and while the Clippers’ no longer have the top five spots in the coveted plus-minus category, they’re still a tremendous 14-4 and sitting within grasp of the conference throne.
Earlier today, Clippers’ head coach noted that the Nets’ sustained absence of Lin would be like his side losing Chris Paul or Blake Griffin — and, while that sentiment is nice in theory, these celler-dwellers have issues extending far beyond the point guard’s injury. The Clippers’ stalwart defensive unit has a defensive efficiency rating of 98.9, good for 2nd-best in the NBA; but the Nets — without gamechangers like DeAndre Jordan protecting the paint — have plummeted to an efficiency ranking of 109.3, 29th-worst and only ahead of a Portland Trail Blazers team that walloped them by 20 points not too long ago.
Even if defense isn’t your preferred measuring stick, the offense isn’t likely to inspire either. The most optimistic of supporters might point to their near league-leading pace and 3rd-most three-point attempts and say that it’s a great example of a modern offense, something that former head coach Lionel Hollins ran little of last season. While that’s a nice consolation prize in an increasingly dire, submarining season, it means little when they make those deep shots at just a 33% clip, a mark that leaves them at 24th-lowest.
And therein lies the problem: the coach can be great and the system can be well-run, but if you need Joe Harris to execute like J.J. Redick, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Which ultimately brings us to the theme of the night: ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!
Have mercy, basketball gods, have mercy.
3 Things to Watch for in Nets-Clippers:
1. The Tip-Off
Yeah, when you let the opposing team get off to a 35-7 start, your chances of winning that basketball game drop sharply to about 0.7%. So, uh, don’t do that again.
2. Literally anybody on Los Angeles
The Clippers are one of the NBA’s deepest squads front to back, so who do you even try to stop? Paul? Griffin? The Nets’ best shot at winning tonight might honestly involve committing all 18 available personal fouls from Chris McCullough, Luis Scola, and Anthony Bennett into intentionally fouling Jordan from the opening whistle.
OK, it’s probably not my best idea, but let’s be honest, it’s not likely my worst either.
3. Hey, Brook Lopez is playing!
The first time these teams played, Kenny Atkinson sacrificed Brook Lopez in the name of potentially winning the second game of the back-to-back against the Lakers. Although the result wouldn’t have mattered in reality, it’ll at least be interesting to watch the slower Lopez look to contain the rim-rocking Jordan. Or maybe it’ll be immediately painful, I don’t know, this third bullet was really just a shot in the dark.
Avoid the poster dunk and you’ll have survived the night with some dignity, Brook.