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Nets play host to the Trailblazers

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Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

That was much needed. The Brooklyn Nets had lost five straight overall and ten in a row at home heading into Wednesday's game against the New York Knicks. The Nets were able to end both streaks with a 110-104 victory over the Knicks (who were without Carmelo Anthony due to an ankle sprain). This is the first leg of a back-to-back for Brooklyn. They're in Atlanta to play the Hawks on Saturday night.

Making the trip into Brooklyn will be the Portland Trail Blazers. This was expected to be a rebuilding year for them, but they've done a nice job and are only 1.5 games behind the eighth seeded Utah Jazz in the standings. They came away with an impressive victory over the Jazz on Wednesday night. This is the first night of a back-to-back and start of a three game road trip. They're in Philadelphia to play the 76ers on Saturday.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV (for all but Comcast subscribers), WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. Tip after 7:30.

Injuries

Willie Reed will miss this game for personal reasons.

Maurice Harkless is probable for this game due to right knee patellar tendinitis.

The game

Let's check it out:

2015-2016

Brooklyn

Portland

Record

11-28 17-24

Pace

97.33 97.26

Offensive Efficiency

97.7 103.3

Defensive Efficiency

104.7 105.3

Turnover Rate

15.5 15.5

Assist Rate

16.3 16

Offensive Rebounding Rate

24.3 26.8

Rebound Rate

50 51.8

Free Throw Rate

22.4 25.7

Effective Field Goal Percentage

47.6 50.1

Opponent's Effective Field Goal Percentage

51.6 49.8

This week's schedule is perfect for reflecting on past Nets mistakes. One of the big moves under the Billy King regime was the trade of Gerald Wallace in 2012. If you'll recall, the Nets traded Shawne Williams, Mehmet Okur, and a 2012 first round pick for Crash. Crash played decently for New Jersey/Brooklyn and was ultimately sent to Boston in the Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett trade. Nets management felt that Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Thomas Robinson were the only standout players in the draft and didn't mind making the trade. Portland felt otherwise and came away with Damian Lillard, who's gone on to win Rookie of the Year and appeared in two All Star Games. Yeah man.

Speaking of Dame, he's been having a nice season as the leading man. He missed games for the first time in his career earlier in the season due to plantar fasciitis in his left foot. He made his return on January fourth, and while he's only shooting 40.8 percent overall, he's made 43 percent of his three pointers and 86 percent of his free throws. Lillard is an incredibly aggressive player, which will make this the toughest matchup Donald Sloan has seen since becoming the starting point guard. Lillard keeps defenders on edge and can get to the rim almost at will. Sloan

Two games in, every player likes what Tony Brown has brought to the table. Don't believe me, ask Thaddeus Young:

"When your coach is not panicking and he's staying positive and he's continued to motivate us, it's huge  for us as far as an energy standpoint. It makes us want to continue to go out there and continue to play, and it doesn't keep us thinking about what's happening before as much.

"With us, I think our tendencies before was we were harping on the fact that we were going up leads ans harping on the fact that we have some plays where we turned the ball over. But Tony's mentality is, forget what happened before this, and let's try to push and try to win this game. That's huge for us as a team. it says a lot that he believes in us, that he wants us to compete, he believes that we can continue to win the game at any point."

Dang. There were reports that the team is looking into hiring former Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, so it'll be interesting to see if Brown can do enough to maintain a position in the organization next season.

Mason Plumlee's back in town. The former Net had a nice run with the team (including doing a good job filling in for Brook Lopez during the 2013-2014 season), but the Nets decided to trade him to Portland for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. And while RHJ is recovering from ankle surgery, the Nets are happy with his play and see him as one of the players integral to their future success.

Plumlee, talking to the Portland Oregonian Thursday, contrasted playing in the big city pressure cooker vs. Rip City.

"We were expected to win a championship my rookie year in Brooklyn. I'm all for going all in and doing that, but now you're kind of seeing the aftermath of that," Plumlee said. "Here in Portland, I think they're trying to build a different way. Some people call it playing free agency and playing the game of stars in the big market just where you have to get the big names. But I think you can build a championship this way as well."

Tonight, Plumlee will face Brook Lopez. Lopez is shooting 48 percent on post up opportunities and defensively, Plumlee is allowing opponents to shoot 54 percent in the post. The Nets have been making an effort to get Lopez more involved in the offense, and he should get at least 15 shots tonight.

Player to watch: CJ McCollum

After injuries limited him in the first two seasons, McCollum has blossomed in the starting lineup for Portland. He's appeared in all but two games (one of which was thanks to a clerical error) and has done a good job of being the team's second scoring option. He's second on the team in scoring + assists and leads them in three point shooting, knocking down 39 percent of his shots from deep. He's a good free throw shooter, but is rarely on the foul line. As he continues to develop, he will be able to draw fouls more consistently and earn easy points from the foul line. As it stands now, he's already shown himself to be one of the key players to the Blazers' future success.

Wayne Ellington gets the starts, but he splits minutes with Bojan Bogdanovic. Wednesday's game was a great one for Bogdanovic as he scored 14 points and made four out of five shots coming off of the bench. He only scored two points and missed 16 straight shots the three previous games. McCollum is similar to Lillard in that he's frequently driving to the basket and frequently uses the P&R to get good looks for himself and his teammates. Bogdanovic and Ellington aren't particularly good defenders, so this could be a big game for McCollum if Brooklyn isn't careful.

From the Vault

We've spent the week discussing the expensive failure the Nets have been in recent years. Blazers fans know what it's like to see your team bring in pricey veterans and not really accomplish much. Dave Deckard of Blazers Edge did a fantastic retrospective of the franchise a few years back and this section on the mid 2000s team lays it all out:

Neither did the future look particularly bright.  Reality was coming home to roost for Trader Bob and his All-Star Brigade.  How many future Hall-of-Famers were going to be available year after year?  At some point the supply runs dry.  Because the Blazers were acquiring these players on the downhill slope of their careers their outgoing trade value after 2-3 seasons of service was lower than the Blazers had paid to bring them in.  Each round of trades brought less return.  By 2002 the franchise ended up in the same position they found themselves in during the 1994 season when Whitsitt came on board:  scrambling after single-dimensional, B-level players trying to recapture past glory never fulfilled.

The Blazers' desperate grabs for skill at the expense of character put them in an implicit contract with their own fans.  The implied message:  this is what we have to do in order to win.  Portlanders had ridden with Trader Bob through the ups and downs and seen him work magic.  It was a contract most were willing to sign, albeit grudgingly.  They'd give the these new moves a chance.  But it wasn't like past years when likable guys and solid effort were enough to earn full houses.  Victories were the only currency that would purchase fan loyalty.

Of course, another problem for the Blazers was that they couldn't beat Shaq and Kobe when it mattered most.

More reading: Blazer's Edge