Tonight, possibly without Kevin Garnett per back-to-back game protocol, the Nets (18-24) visit Staples Center to play the Los Angeles Clippers (28-14), who are coming off a 102-93 victory over the Boston Celtics on Monday night.
The Nets survived one of their notorious late-game meltdowns Wednesday night, overcoming a fourth-quarter Kings surge en route to a 103-100 victory. The Nets were led by Brook Lopez’s 22 points, six rebounds, and six blocks.
After scoring 36 first-quarter points on 70 percent shooting, including 22 points in the paint, the Nets gradually deteriorated on offense the rest of the game, scoring just 41 in the second half. Thankfully for the Nets, Joe “Jesus” Johnson showed up with some late-game heroics, hitting a three-pointer and two free throws to propel Brooklyn to the final buzzer.
The Clippers are polar opposites of the mistake-prone Kings. They pose an explosive, proficient offensive attack that should pose the Nets with numerous defensive challenges. They rank third in the NBA in points per game, (106.7), third in field goal percentage (47.2) including DeAndre Jordan’s league-leading 72.1 percent, and rank fourth in three-point field goal percentage (38.2). If that’s not enough, the Clippers rank fifth in assists (led by seven-time All-Star Chris Paul’s 9.2 assists per game), and second in turnovers, which put them in the league lead in assist-to-turnover ratio at 2.03. Efficiency!
And then there’s “Lob City.” While the Nets have their own heralded dunker in Mason Plumlee (in line for an invite to the Slam Dunk Contest on All-Star Weekend), the aforementioned Jordan leads the league with 129 dunks. Former dunk champion Blake Griffin, along with 54 dunks of his own, has pitched in with the passing, averaging five assists per game.
Griffin, a four-time All-Star, is in the midst of another outstanding season, averaging 23 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. While his shooting percentage is down (49.6), his jump shot has shown remarkable improvement, at a career-high 39.8 percent. That’s not to mention his career-high 72.5 percent clip from the free throw line, and he’s even 8-for-20 from three!
The Nets lost both games against the Clippers last season, and have not won on the road against them since the 2010-11 season. Their biggest contributor in the two games last season was Xinjiang Flying Tigers center Andray Blatche, who scored 40 points over the two games. Assuming Garnett sits tonight, the Nets bench, responsible for 51 points last night, will need continued contributions to match the high-flying Clippers’ offensive attack.
Tip-off is at 10:30 E.S.T. at Staples Center in Los Angeles.