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The champs come to Brooklyn ... but without KD

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

They battled! On a particular sucky day (more on that in a bit), the Brooklyn Nets played host to the Utah Jazz. The Nets put on one of their best showings of the season and came away with a nice 11-point victory. That win came at the right time especially when you consider the schedule coming up. They get a few days off before heading into Cleveland to play LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday.

The opponent tonight will be the reigning NBA Champions. The Golden State Warriors are quietly (relatively speaking) making their way through the league and are once again the favorites to win the NBA Championship. This is the second half of a back-to-back. They were getting beat down in the first half of last night’s game against the 76ers, but they put on an all-time great display in the third quarter and went on to win the game by eight points. They wrap up their five game road trip with a national TV showdown against Russell Westbrook and the new look Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night. That should be quite the sight.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WCBS 880 AM on radio. Tip off after 6 PM.


On Friday, General Manager Sean Marks announced that starting point guard D’Angelo Russell underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. He’ll be out indefinitely.

Kevin Durant will not play. He has a left ankle sprain. It was announced around noon.

The game

Spencer Dinwiddie will be the starter for the time being and he’ll get to match up with the best PG in the league. One interesting thing about Steph Curry (and his twists) this year is that he’s been getting to the free throw line at the highest rate of his career and is shooting a career high 93.4 percent from the line. It presents a thin Nets backcourt with one more major issue to deal with. Dinwiddie has been terrific this year and the Nets will need another great game out of him if they want to pull off the upset. Zach Cronin of has more on Dinwiddie here.

Allen Crabbe was brought in to open the Nets offense up (especially from deep), and it’s been a bit hit or miss on that end. He’s shooting a respectable 37.5 percent from three point range, but it’s below his career mark of 40.7 percent. They’re going to need a big game out of him against Klay Thompson, Swaggy P (the man occasionally known as Nick Young) and Golden State’s league leading three-point attack. The game will also flow pretty quickly as both teams are top five in the NBA in pace this season.

Both teams have quality young big men, but it’s likely they’ll both see limited action if they even get on the court at all. Jarrett Allen recently came back from a knee injury that sidelined him for two weeks. He didn’t play on Friday, but is likely to see some time on the court tonight. In his limited playing time, Jordan Bell has looked pretty great on offense, but hasn’t gotten much time lately. Eric Apricot of Golden State of Mind has more on Bell.

The third quarter is where this game will likely be decided. The Warriors are outscoring teams by 30.7 (yes, thirty point seven) points per 100 possessions in the third, best in the league. Brooklyn has been outscored by four points per 100 possessions, tenth worst in the league. The Nets will have to maintain their composure when the Warriors go on one of their big runs. You know it’s coming.

Player to watch: Kevin Durant

Oh well, things change. No KD vs. Nets. It’s been a pretty fascinating year for Durant. He has transformed himself into one of the best defenders in the league and is a damn good rim protector in his own right. Along with that, he’s still the same old machine on offense and is on track to post his second 50-40-90 season. It’s a real pleasure to watch a seven footer who handles like a guard and can shoot from anywhere within the state.

GQ Magazine profiled him this week and this part really stood out to me:

We always had the power, as players. We're just realizing it now. It's like when you wake up—we woke now. And a lot of people didn't want us to be woke. They wanted us to stay in this trance, that we felt like we had to live our life based on what somebody else does. They can move us when they want to, they can sign us when they want to.… We got control of that now.”

That quote really does encapsulate the way sports has changed. Players have come to realize that they hold the cards in the management-labor relationship and have been exert their influence in more ways than ever before. Guys have more freedom to be themselves and make choices that make them happy.

From the Vault

On December 18, the Lakers will retire Kobe Bryant’s number 8 and 24 jerseys against the Warriors. And because of that, we’re taking two trips today. First up, we’re heading back to 1999 and watching young Kobe put on a show in front of a recently retired Michael Jordan in Oakland

and in 2009 when older Kobe went to work in LA against the Dubs

More reading: Golden State of Mind