Brooklyn Nets vs. Portland Trail Blazers
Time: 12 p.m. EST
Location: Barclays Center
Watch: YES Network, FOX Sports GO
Listen: WFAN 101.9, 660 AM
While most of America will be recovering from Turkey (and tryptophan) induced food comas or indulging in Black Friday deals, the Brooklyn Nets will play in a Friday matinee the day after Thanksgiving. They play against the Portland Trail Blazers (10-8). Following a hard fought but ultimately losing battle against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday, the Nets return home for one game before a three-game mini road trip.
Wednesday’s loss against the Cavaliers, much like their loss to the Warriors, showed the Nets’ gritty play – when they work as a team. The Nets may not have had the talent to match up against NBA elite like Stephen Curry and LeBron James, but they competed for most of the game nonetheless. Against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Nets try to sweep the season series. Of course, Portland is led by the hot shooting backcourt of C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard. The Nets won their first matchup two weeks ago on Nov. 10, beating Portland 101-97 on the West Coast.
Here are three things to watch for during the Nets-Blazers game…
Brooklyn Nets fans will be in for a treat when Damian Lillard makes his once-a-year appearance at Barclays Center. (Just another reminder that Lillard was chosen with a Nets pick back in 2012. You’re welcome.) The star guard is averaging 24.7 points per game, although on percentages a little less than ideal, at 40 percent from the field and 32 percent from three. Lillard is coming off of a 30-point game against the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night, although in a 20-point loss. Lillard is still a deadly scorer – but his game has been a bit inconsistent at times, particularly on the defensive end.
With Spencer Dinwiddie handling point guard duties for the Nets, he’ll have to use his length and lateral quickness to stop Lillard and his off the dribble confidence on the offensive end. Dinwiddie is coming off of an eight-point, 10-assist game against the Cavaliers. Lillard doesn’t have the reputation of being a lockdown defender, so Dinwiddie should look for his offense against a potential mismatch.
The 5 Spot
In the Brooklyn Nets’ first meeting against the Trail Blazers, center Jusuf Nurkic eviscerated the Nets’ bigs, scoring at will in the first three quarters. Brooklyn was without Trevor Booker, Jarrett Allen and Tyler Zeller for that game, with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson sliding in to play center at some points. Nurkic (AKA The Bosnian Bear) was a major factor in Portland’s lead early that game. Strangely, Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts went away from Nurkic in the fourth quarter, matching the Nets’ small ball lineup with Ed Davis in the middle. That may have been the deciding factor, with Nurkic finishing with 21 points in 25 minutes. The Nets weren’t at a size disadvantage at the end of the Portland game, leading to their victory.
This time, Allen and Zeller should be ready to go. Booker missed the Nets’ last game against Cleveland and his status is still unknown. Against a crafty, bruising big like Jusuf Nurkic, the Nets will need as much help as they can in the middle. Brooklyn may also need help defending Lillard or McCollum pick and rolls. While the duo of Allen and Zeller may not be glamorous, they play smart on defense and keep the ball moving on offense.
Learning from Experience
The Brooklyn Nets are coming off of a tough two-game stretch where they faced the NBA’s two best teams – and lost. But the Nets weren’t completely left in the dust (aside from that first half against the Warriors.) Were the Nets’ opponents letting go of the gas pedal against possibly inferior competition? Or was Brooklyn’s frantic pace and fighting spirit actually on display against two of the NBA’s crown jewels? Who knows. But it’s still a confidence-builder to play competitively, despite being the odds being stacked against them.
The Trail Blazers are still a respectable team, but aren’t on the same level as the Warriors or Cavaliers. That’s known. But several Brooklyn Nets are starting to show confidence. Caris LeVert is looking more assertive in a primary ballhandling role, especially on drives. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson continues to impress on the offensive end. Joe Harris is a role star. That’s just to name three players that have played well as of late. If the Nets want to secure a W on Friday afternoon, they’ll have to bring the same consistency and teamwork that they did in their exciting (but sometimes frustrating) losses to the Warriors and Cavaliers.