Riding their first winning streak of the year (technically!), the Brooklyn Nets take on the Los Angeles Clippers. Of course, this game’s storyline lies in Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce finally playing against their former coach, Doc Rivers, as well as Deron Williams facing off against Chris Paul. The Nets played the Clippers on November 16th and ultimately lost 110-103 without Garnett, Pierce, Williams or Lopez available.
Tonight, they’re all healthy (or healthy-ish) and will look to avenge their loss from earlier this season. Here are the three biggest questions going into tonight’s tilt against the Clippers:
1. How badly will Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan abuse the Nets in the post?
Max Weisberg: The Nets will have issues defending the athleticism of Griffin and Jordan but they won’t be overwhelmed by it. I fully expect to see a lot of Mason Plumlee while Griffin and/or Jordan are on the floor. When the Nets lost to the Clippers in LA a few weeks ago, Plumlee was able to have success inside and on the offensive glass.
Ben Nadeau: Honestly, it may not end up that badly. As usual, they’ll have trouble with Lopez if the Nets continue to stick with the gameplan that brought them success against the Celtics. As always, Garnett is a wild card, but he showed enough against the Celtics to reconsider everything I said before. But, if you’re in Blatche, just duck, don’t show up on ESPN’s Top 10, it’s better that way.
Devin Kharpertian: Are they supposed to? Lopez has historically played well against Jordan, taking advantage of Jordan’s eagerness and scoring around him with crafty moves. On ClipperBlog Live last year, I talked about how Lopez tends to play to a different beat against athletic forwards like Jordan, moving just before or just after a defender tries to stop him. Athletically, it’s true that Garnett and Lopez will struggle with Griffin and Jordan, but I wouldn’t say it’s an abuse.
2. Where is the Nets’ biggest advantage in this game?
Max Weisberg: The Nets’ biggest advantage lies where they almost always have the advantage: Brook Lopez. Jordan may be athletic, but that won’t do the job against Lopez. In the 8 career games in which Brook Lopez and DeAndre Jordan have matched up in their career’s, Lopez is averaging 20 ppg on 60.8% shooting as well as 2.6 blocks per contest. Lopez’s team also owns a mark of 5-3 in those 8 games. Expect more domination from Brook.
Ben Nadeau: Here’s what I said about Brook Lopez before the Celtics game: “Throw it to Brook Lopez. Give the ball the Brook Lopez. Politely hand the ball to Brook Lopez. Make sure Brook Lopez touches the ball on every possession. Granted, it was only Milwaukee but come on! Everyone and their mothers can see that the key to the Nets’ success lies in Brook Lopez.” So, until proven differently, let’s stick with that.
As many on Twitter have pointed out, 2nd in the NBA in PER, 14th in NBA All-Star Game Voting — look for a big game tonight out of Brook.
Devin Kharpertian: Deron Williams is back. I know that Williams doesn’t have a significant advantage over point guard and elemental wizard Chris Paul (though Williams has outplayed Paul in their 19 meetings), but he does have a measurable advantage over Shaun Livingston and Tyshawn Taylor, as we saw Tuesday night against the Boston Celtics.
3. In order to win this game, the Nets have to…
Max Weisberg: The Nets have to move the ball like against Boston. The Nets scored 116.4 points per 100 possessions in that game which to say the least, is ridiculously good. The Celtics starting unit (where most of the damage was done) also ranks 11th in defensive efficiency among starting units in the NBA and the Nets crushed them. The Clippers will be a tough test though: their starters rank 13th in defensive efficiency among NBA starting units and as a whole, they rank 9th in the NBA in defensive efficiency for the season. Should be a nice test.
Ben Nadeau: Let Deron Williams do this thing. Frankly, D-Will looked really good against the suffocating Avery Bradley. Tonight, he’s pulled just as hard of an assignment with Chris Paul– if Williams can lead that free-flowing, beautiful offense that we saw against Boston, the Nets might just be able to pull this one out. Knock on wood though and wrap your ankles.
Devin Kharpertian: Run those drag screens for Williams in transition again. Go to Lopez in the post in the first and fourth quarter, giving him rest in the late second and mid-third. Hope Andray Blatche has his chef’s hat on and doesn’t start a grease fire. Hope Garnett can check Blake Griffin at the three-point line and not let him roll to the rim. ICE the side pick-and-rolls and don’t let CP3 get loose. Pray CP3 doesn’t get loose.
Max Weisberg: Clippers 115, Nets 103.
Ben Nadeau: Nets 102, Clippers 97.
Devin Kharpertian: Nets 93, Clippers 91.