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Nets try to beat Thunder again

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Minnesota Timberwolves Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Payback is fun. When the Brooklyn Nets went into Detroit to play the Pistons on Sunday afternoon, they were hoping for two things. One was to come away with a win after suffering a 34-point beatdown at home earlier this month and the other was for Spencer Dinwiddie to make his former team pay for not believing in him. They killed two birds with one stone as Dinwiddie's game winner gave Brooklyn a one point win. Job well done.

The opponent this evening will be the Oklahoma City Thunder. After a slow start, the Thunder are looking like the contenders we expected them to be. They've been off the past few days after they beat the hell out of the Cavs in Cleveland on Saturday afternoon. They've won their last five games.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. Tip off after 8 PM.


Nothing new for the Nets. Isaiah Whitehead along with two-ways Milton Doyle and James Webb III remain with Long Island.

The Thunder are healthy.

The game

The Nets won the first game in December. That game was played in Mexico City.

During OKC's early season struggles, I wrote the following:

It’s still early, but they need to figure out who will be the focal point of the offense, which of the big three will get playing time with the second unit while the other stars rest up, how they can avoid falling into hero ball, my turn your turn traps on offense, etc. There have been plenty of encouraging moments, so Billy Donovan and friends have some things to build on as they push through the regular season.

Since their loss to Brooklyn in early December, OKC has gone 15-7 and outscored teams by 5.2 points per 100 possessions. They're currently fifth in the Western Conference, but have plenty of time to catch up to Minnesota (four seed and Northwest Division leaders) and San Antonio (three seed).

D'Angelo Russell is working his way back into action, so it's unlikely he'll be on the court at the same time as Russell Westbrook. Over his last ten games, Russ is averaging around 26 points, ten rebounds, and 11 assists a night while shooting close to 50 percent from the field. Amazingly, he still can't knock down his free throws and I'm completely stumped as to why a career 81 percent free throw shooter is barely above 70 percent on the season. Caris LeVert had success against him in Mexico City and he'll get another chance against him today. LeVert is serving as Brooklyn's backup point guard, and the role suits him well. It's great that he has the ball in his hands more often and it's led to more success on the court for him.

Rondae Hollis Jefferson will face a solid challenge tonight. It’s been a season of adjustments for Carmelo Anthony and he’s done well going from lead option to catch and shoot maestro. Here’s Paul George explaining the change:

He’s one of the best in the league, and statistically over his career at catch-and-shoot. He’s definitely a weapon. I know it’s different for him, he been so used to midrange and playing off the block and elbows, but he’s a huge threat on catch-and-shoot.”

It takes a lot for a player of Melo's stature to adjust to a new role on the fly, so shout out to him.

Player to watch: Paul George

There's a part of me that thinks George might be the player that will decide whether OKC can make it to the Finals. He checks off all the boxes you want for an All Star - borderline superstar player. He can take over games for extended runs. He's a lockdown defender. And he's someone that can be the face of your franchise. They're going to need him at his best when he goes up against players like Jimmy Butler, James Harden, and Kevin Durant come playoff time, and I think he'll come up big for Donovan and the Thunder.

George did not play in the Nets win over OKC in Mexico.

DeMarre Carroll will be assigned to PG13 tonight. Carroll doesn't fill up the scoring column, but he does a lot of other things well for the team. Brooklyn is fairly small, and to make up for it, Carroll has been more active than ever on the boards. That'll be crucial this evening as the Thunder are the third best rebounding team in the league this season. If Brooklyn can win the battle of the boards or at least remain within striking distance, their chances of pulling off the upset will increase a great deal.

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