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Can Nets keep Towns from joining murderers row?

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Fortunately for the Brooklyn Nets, Nikola Vucevic was inactive on Monday night as his Orlando Magic were narrowly defeated at Barclays Center, 98-95, to begin the new year.

Back on October 20, the Nets home opener, Vucevic torched the Nets for a career-best 41 points and 12 rebounds while shooting 17-of-22 (77.3%) from the field and 6-of-8 (75%) from three.

It is one of several outstanding showings put forth by bigs against Brooklyn this season.

Here are some others:

  • Myles Turner (21 points, 14 rebounds, 4 blocks, 61.5% FG on October 18)
  • Kristaps Porzingis (30 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks in 29 minutes on October 27)
  • Nikola Jokic (21 points, 14 rebounds in 29 minutes on October 29)
  • Brook Lopez (34 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks, 66.7% 3PT in 30 minutes on November 3)
  • Nikola Jokic (41 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks on November 7)
  • Derrick Favors (24 points, 12 rebounds, 60% FG on November 11)
  • Jusuf Nurkic (29 points, 15 rebounds in 31 minutes on November 24)
  • Zach Randolph (21 points, 8 rebounds in 26 minutes on December 20)
  • LaMarcus Aldridge (20 points, 9 rebounds) & Paul Gasol (15 points, 12 rebounds on December 26)
  • Anthony Davis (33 points, 11 rebounds, 6 blocks) & DeMarcus Cousins (27 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists on December 27)

There is more, but you get the point.

So how does Kenny Atkinson plan to combat this with arguably the NBA’s most-talented center, Karl-Anthony Towns and his Minnesota Timberwolves arriving to Brooklyn on Wednesday night?

Well, he’s not giving away his entire gameplan, but we know two things.

On one-hand Rondae Hollis-Jefferson did a stellar job of containing Aaron Gordon late in Monday’s game, a night where Gordon still finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds, though, he only shot 40% from the field, 25% from three, and only scored four points in the final stanza, where he shot 1-of-3. Last time the two teams faced each other, Gordon had 41, also a career high.

Hollis-Jefferson has been trusted by Atkinson in big spot after big spot when it comes to defending some of the other team’s best scorers, regardless of their skill-set. The downside is he’s often meeting up with the opponent’s most talented big man. Win or lose, Atkinson has rode with Hollis-Jefferson. He’s his guy after all.

“I think we made it a big emphasis in our scouting report,” said Atkinson Monday night, regarding locking down Gordon. “Rondae was locked in. He’s (Gordon) a tough cover as we talked about before the game with the way they’ve got him coming off screens now, basically like a wing, it’s like a two-guard playing the four. I thought Rondae was, besides those first couple of minutes where (Gordon) got a quick nine points, I think we relaxed him and got locked in – good job by Rondae and good job by our team support behind him.”

Said Magic coach Frank Vogel after the game: "Hollis-Jefferson's under his chin the whole night. He's a great defender."

On the other-hand, per Atkinson, Jahlil Okafor is expected to play on Wednesday. Ironically, it will be, in some form or fashion, against K.A.T., who was picked first overall in the 2015 NBA Draft, where Okafor went third to Philadelphia after D’Angelo Russell, who was the No. 2 pick by the Lakers.

More than two years ago, November 23, 2015 to be exact, Okafor and Towns lined up across from one another for the very first time at the NBA level, Okafor for Philly, Towns for Minny.

Okafor destroyed Towns and the Timberwolves, putting up 25 points, 12 rebounds and a couple of blocks in about 33 minutes of game time. Okafor shot 10-of-15 from the field, and led his team despite a 100-95 loss to Towns’ Timberwolves. Towns had an off night, finishing with six points, three rebounds and two blocks in 19 minutes while met with foul trouble.

Since then, the tables have turned, and Okafor played significantly less in more recent meetings while Towns became the NBA’s top center.

Perhaps Atkinson wants Okafor to go to back where it all began. Either way, bigs have been a problem with the Nets, and someone will have to do something about it Wednesday night.