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Nets begin L.A. back-to-back vs Clippers ... without Lopez

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NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Good work. The Nets played in Phoenix on Saturday and pulled away late to come away with a 122-104 victory over the Suns. This is the first night of a back-to-back, but they're back at Staples Center to play the Lakers tomorrow so they're not going anywhere. Back-to-backs take a lot out of players, but maybe having them in the same city will take less of a toll on their bodies.

Awaiting the Nets will be the Los Angeles Clippers. It’s early, but the Clips have been the best team in the West to start the season. They extended their winning streak to six games with a win over the Wolves in Minneapolis on Saturday. They’ll play the Nets again in two weeks.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV, WCBS 880 AM on radio. We’re on West Coast time so tip will be after 10:30.

Injuries

Brook Lopez will not play tonight, as part of the team’s plan to rest him during back-to-backs.

It’s now probable Isaiah Whitehead will play. He's missed the last two games due to a concussion. He joined his teammates Sunday in L.A., after he wasn’t permitted to fly because of his concussion. He’s missed two games.

Wesley Johnson didn't play on Saturday due to a bruised left heel and his status for this one is unknown.,

The game

Trevor Booker has been fantastic as a Net, and tonight figures to be his toughest matchup so far. Blake Griffin is one of the best power forwards in the league and can do practically anything and has been working to expand his range out the three point line. He's not there yet, but if he can get himself to become a 33 percent shooter from deep by playoff time, it'll open up some new opportunities on offense for the Clips. Booker has been a godsend for the Nets and has been a beast on the glass. If he can make life difficult for Griffin on defense and provide a little scoring punch on offense,

DeAndre Jordan has followed up a fantastic run in Rio for Team USA with another solid season. I wrote over the summer about why these centers like he and Lopez are still important in an evolving league.

If there's any positive to Jeremy Lin being out, it's that Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will have the ball in his hands more. RHJ had one of the best games of his career on Saturday, scoring 20 points, grabbing 13 rebounds, and going 10-11 from the line. This season is a great opportunity for RHJ to expand his game and incorporate new skills into his repertoire. Defensively, he’ll more than likely be assigned to JJ Redick. Redick is still one of the league’s best three point shooters and it’ll be up to RHJ to navigate through a maze of screens and stay attached to the former Duke star.

The Clippers bench was expected to be a weakness, but they’ve exceeded expectations so far. You’d think a bench that consisted of Jamal Crawford, Mo Speights, Ray Felton, and Austin Rivers would be awful on defense, but they’ve been one of the league’s best units and have helped the Clippers to an NBA best 14.8 efficiency differential. Of course it’s still early, but if the bench can sustain this level of play throughout the season, Doc Rivers’ bunch will become an even more imposing team come playoff time. Not to be outdone, but Brooklyn’s bench has been pretty solid in their own right. Joe Harris, Justin Hamilton, Sean Kilpatrick, and Luis Scola have done a good job for Kenny Atkinson.

Player to watch: Chris Paul

If the Clippers want to make the Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history, they’re going to need CP3 to be as good as he’s ever been. Over at The Ringer, Shea Serrano provided some great info about Paul’s and just how amazing he’s been throughout his career:

Did you know that for the entirety of his career, the only time Paul has ever finished outside of the top four in the league in assists per game was his rookie year (he was seventh), and that he finished first four times (2008, 2009, 2014, 2015)? Or did you know that starting in 2013, the NBA began tracking a stat called assist points created, which measures how many points a player’s assists account for, and that Paul has never averaged fewer than than 23.7 over that span, which means that in addition to his regular scoring he’s also generating nearly as many secondary points per game as Russell Westbrook is scoring? Or did you know that the season before Paul came to the Clippers (2011), they rated 23rd in offensive efficiency? And that the seasons after he arrived, they rated fourth (2012), fourth (2013), first (2014), first (2015), and then sixth (2016)? Or that he’s been one of the most effective midrange shooters in the world, allowing for an offensive backup plan that’s more effective than most teams’ first-place plans?

Amazingly, Paul might be having the best season of his career. CP3 has never been one to turn the ball over much, but he’s coughing it up at a career low rate this year. He’s also making a conscious effort to shoot more three pointers (five per game) and is making them at a career high rate (44.9 percent). Paul remains one of the best point guards in the league and as long as he’s out there, the Clippers will dominate.

The Nets point guard situation is still a mess, but they’ve got a little help on the way. After waiving Vasquez, they brought Yogi Ferell up from the Long Island Nets. He joins a rotation that includes Kilpatrick and Randy Foye. Ferrell earned rave reviews throughout the summer and can earn a permanent spot in the rotation with a good week coming up.

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More reading: Clips Nation