Nothing comes easy. The Nets almost let a 22 point lead slip, but they got the job done and came away with a quality victory over the Boston Celtics in Brooklyn on Sunday night. They're still buried near the bottom of the conference, but things could be worse. This is the start of a quick two game holiday road trip for Brooklyn. They'll be in Cleveland to face the undefeated (at home) Cavaliers on Saturday night.
Waiting for the Nets the night before Thanksgiving will be the Oklahoma City Thunder. In a loaded Western Conference, the Thunder are one of the few teams that might be able to dethrone the Golden State Warriors. Their last game was the second half of a back-to-back Monday night in Utah, a convincing 111-89 victory over the Jazz. After this, the Jazz will host Brooklyn's opponent on Sunday night, the Detroit Pistons, at home on Black Friday.
Where to follow the game
YES Network on TV (unless you're a Comcast subscriber then you're screwed) and WFAN 101.9 FM on the radio. Tip off is after 8 PM.
The Nets are healthy enough.
Kevin Durant missed more than a week with a left hamstring injury, but he returned Monday night and will be in the lineup tonight. More on him later.
After seven good years, the Thunder changed coaches and fired Scott Brooks in April of this year. The team went into the college ranks and replaced Brooks with Florida's Billy Donovan.
If you think back to last season's trade deadline, you'll recall that the Thunder were very close to trading Reggie Jackson to the Nets for Brook Lopez. The deal fell through at the last minute and Sam Presti went and acquired Enes Kanter from Utah instead. Who knows how the Nets would look if that deal actually went through.
When Kanter is on the court, the Nets should attack him at every turn. Kanter is a good scorer, but as a defender, he's one of the worst big men in the league. OKC is five points worse per 100 possessions defensively when he's on the court, and while pairing him with Serge Ibaka is designed to help him out, that duo is allowing 114.7 points per 100 possessions when they're on the court together.
Brook Lopez's season high in field goal attempts this season was 21, a mark he reached against the Hawks last week and in the overtime game against the Warriors. If he is matched up against Kanter, the Nets should get him the ball every time. Lopez is a gifted scorer on the inside, and the Nets work best when he's the focal point of the team's attack.
Russell Westbrook is the most explosive player in the league today. Russ gets yelled at for not passing enough, but his assist rate has risen each of the past three seasons and is currently averaging a career high ten assists a night, second best in the league. Staying in front of Russ is an impossible task, so if Jarrett Jack and Shane Larkin can keep him under 30 minutes, it can be viewed as an accomplishment.
Our old friend Anthony Morrow is still in the league. He started a few games after Durant went down to help with OKC's floor spacing, and had been shooting career lows from the field and three point range for much of the season. However, it appears that he's begun to heat up. He's made 11 out of his last 19 field goal attempts, including five three pointers. Morrow has been one of the best three point shooters in the league throughout his seven year career, and if he's able to shoot like we know he can, the Thunder's offense will be even better.
Player to watch: Kevin Durant
Durant came back on Monday and didn't miss a beat. He scored 27 points in 30 minutes and made 10 of 13 from the field. Durant can score from anywhere on the court and is incredibly hard to defend even on days he's struggling. The big discussion surrounding KD is on what he will do in free agency next summer, but we're a long way from that so it doesn't make sense to focus on that right now.
This'll be one hell of a challenge for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
Here's another challenge for RHJ, as reported by the Daily Oklahoman.
Before being drafted in the first round this summer, Hollis-Jefferson was asked at the NBA Draft Combine who’s the one guy he’d like to dunk on when he gets to the pros. Hollis-Jefferson picked the Thunder shot swatter.
"I don't know if I should say this, because he might be, like, looking for me if I come down the paint," Hollis-Jefferson said during a television interview. "But I know Serge Ibaka is a big blocked-shot dude. So if I can get him, I'm good."
Hollis-Jefferson was then asked to look into the camera and call out Ibaka. The Arizona product played along.
"Serge Ibaka. Serge, I’m coming for you, baby," Hollis-Jefferson said, laughing.
RHJ should play at least 30 minutes tonight. He's the only Net that has a decent chance of staying with Durant and playing against one of the league's five best players will be a great test for him.
From the Vault
The Nets are off to a disappointing start and have to face one of the league's best teams on the road. Where have we heard that before?
More reading: Welcome to Loud City
- Brooklyn Nets Game Notes1 - Brooklyn Nets
- Oklahoma City Thunder Game Notes1 - Oklahoma City Thunder
- Nets-Thunder Preview - Jordan Garretson - STATS LLC
- Next assignments for Nets’ rookie? Durant, LeBron - Brian Lewis - New York Post
Tough road test for Nets defense - Andy Vasquez - The Record
- Nets on road again and seeing stars in OKC and Cleveland - Laura Albanese - Newsday
- Hollis-Jefferson faces defensive test against NBA's best - Mike Mazzeo - ESPN New York
- Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook next up for Net - Sean Flattery - The Brooklyn Game
- OKC Thunder: Summer trash talkers Serge Ibaka, Ronde Hollis-Jefferson finally do battle - Erick Horne - Daily Oklahoman