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Nets try to upset the Clippers

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"Really dawg?"
"Really dawg?"
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

When you're below .500 and barely hanging on to a playoff spot, you take whatever wins you can get. The Brooklyn Nets almost blew a 23 point lead in Sacramento last night but managed to hold on and win 103-100. They are still in the eighth position (Miami is tied with the Nets but they've lost all three meetings to the Heat so they would be seventh) but only 0.5 games ahead of the suddenly surging Charlotte Hornets. This is the second night of a back-to-back for the Nets. They head to Utah on Saturday night before returning home to play the Trailblazers on Monday night.

Waiting for the Nets will be the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers have won their last two games, including the MLK Day game against Boston on Monday. They're 28-14, but that's got them in sixth place in the Western Conference standings. Nobody said life was fair.

Injuries

Deron Williams is inching his way back to returning from his rib injury, but we won't be seeing him here. Monday is the earliest date he can return from injury but that seems unlikely at this point.

Nothing listed for the Clips.

Where to follow the game

It's a national TV affair so TNT has got you covered. On the radio side, WFAN 101.9 is where you need to go. Tip off is scheduled for a bit after 10:30 PM.

The game

What's going on with these clubs? Let's get into it:

2014-2015 Season

Brooklyn Los Angeles

Record

18-24 28-14

Pace

94.27 96.48

Offensive Efficiency

100 110.4

Defensive Efficiency

102.9 103.8

Turnover Rate

15.3 12.6

Assist Rate

16.4 19

Offensive Rebounding Rate

22.8 21.7

Rebounding Rate

49 49.3

Free Throw Rate

27.2 30.5

Effective Field Goal Percentage

48.8 53.4

Opponent's Effective Field Goal Percentage

49.6 50.6

It's getting harder and harder to justify trading Brook Lopez. The big fella had another great game coming off the bench, scoring 22 points and blocking six shots. A great sign for Brook and the team is that he has been taking shots closer to the rim recently. That should come in handy against DeAndre Jordan. Jordan has been a force on the inside for the Clips, leading the Association in rebounds and blocked shots. One thing working in Lopez's favor is Jordan has allowed opposing players to shoot 48 percent at the rim while he is there. The Nets should look for Lopez inside early and often. On the other side of the ball, Jordan is still an awful free throw shooter so look for Lionel Hollins to deploy the hacking strategy at some point tonight.

Having to deal with Blake Griffin is always a difficult task. The big guy's numbers are down some, but he's still been good (and popular) enough to be named to the starting lineup of the All Star Game. One change in his game is where he's taking his shots. Blake has always been a quality jump shooting big man, and now the majority of hos attempts have come from 16 feet and beyond. He's shooting 40 percent on those shots and a career high 72.5 percent from the free throw line. That diversity in his offense along with his finishing at the rim will make him harder to cover if you're an opposing power forward. Kevin Garnett only played 14 minutes last night, and all signs point to him playing tonight. If he can keep Blake off the glass, the Nets can control the pace of the game. If it speeds up, Brooklyn will get run off the court.

Bench play figures to be key. For Los Angeles, they are led by sixth man extraordinaire Jamal Crawford. We'll also get to see new acquisition Austin Rivers. Last time he was on national television, Kyrie Irving roasted him. Alan Anderson doesn't figure to explode on offense, but he will be responsible for keeping Crawford in check. He has the potential to go off and can get incredibly hot from three point range.

The Clippers should be well rested. They haven't played outside Pacific Time Zone since December 23.  That's a month of playing at home --or against the weaker teams of the Western Conference.  They're 9-4 in that stretch.

Player to watch: Chris Paul

It seems kind of hard to believe, but Paul has been in the NBA for ten years. In that time period, he has established himself as one of the best players in the league as he has led the Hornets and Clippers to multiple playoff berths. He's been able to do that by consistently getting his teammates involved and avoiding turnovers. He doesn't need to score with the level of talent surrounding him these days, but he's a great shooter that can get to the rim and score in isolation. Stephen Curry has pretty much taken his spot (and starting All Star position) as "Best Point Guard in the League," but he's still an amazing player.

Without Williams, Jarrett Jack has done a decent job filling in. He's averaged around 14 points and seven assists in the month of January, but hasn't been able to make his three pointers. Guarding Paul figures to be his toughest challenge this month. Jack played 39 minutes last night and will need to play a large amount again. Defensively, he and his teammates will need to be sharp with their rotations. Los Angeles is sixth in three pointers attempted and third in efficiency.

From the Vault

The days where the Lakers owned the Staples Center are done with for the time being. With that being said, ride on back to 2000 and see Shaquille O'Neal celebrate his birthday against Michael Olawakandi and the Clips.

More reading: Clips Nation