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Nets begin 5-game road trip in Portland

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Philadelphia 76ers v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Cameron Browne/NBAE via Getty Images

It was a lot closer than the final score indicated. After running out to a 20 -point third quarter lead, the Brooklyn Nets almost tricked off said lead but managed to hold on and beat the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday night. It could’ve been worse.

The opponent tonight will be the Portland Trailblazers. Fresh off their first Western Conference Finals appearance in 19 years and with that team in San Francisco in tatters, the Blazers hope to take the next step in terms of championship contention. This is night two of a back-to-back for Portland after they lost, 107-101 against the Los Angeles Clippers last night on a Lou Williams dagger.

Portland is now 3-5 ... and winless at home.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. Chris Carrino has the call. WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. Late night affair so the party's getting started after 10 PM.

Injuries

DeAndre Jordan sprained his ankle on Monday and is questionable for this game.

Jusuf Nurkic is still recovering from the leg injury he suffered last season. Zach Collins underwent surgery to repair a torn left labrum and is out indefinitely. I didn't know Pau Gasol was on the Blazers now, but he's out, too.

The game

Over the summer, the Blazers made a trade with the Miami Heat to acquire former All Star big man Hassan Whiteside. For as much talent as Whiteside has, it feels like he should be able to do a lot more and needs to keep focus so he can reach his full potential. The numbers are there, but the team results haven't been there yet. As Jordan navigates his injury, Jarrett Allen will have to shoulder the frontcourt load for Brooklyn. Allen got a lot of fourth quarter play on Monday night and will be the person to count on late in this game as well. The Nets will be relying on Nic Claxton and Henry Ellenson for backup minutes. Welcome to the NBA, guys.

Bench play will likely determine the winner. Portland's bench is a lot different from last season as Evan Turner was traded to the Atlanta Hawks for Kent Bazemore and Seth Curry left to rejoin the Dallas Mavericks. It's been a transition for Terry Stotts and as the season continues, things will straighten out. As for the Nets, their second unit has been the worst aspect of the team so far and another poor performance will cause even more cause for concern.

Also, there’s Anfernee Simons, the 6’4” wunderkind who skipped college and went straight to the NBA in 2018. After a year of watching Damian Lillard, he’s now playing alongside him, Simons is averaging 10.5 points a game and he’s barely 20.

Player to watch: Damian Lillard

In one corner, we have a multiple time All Star, face of the franchise, and late game assassin. Ever since he came into the league, Lillard has gradually improved and is solidly in the top pier of point guards in the NBA. He can score on all three levels, is the leader of one of the better franchises in the league, and is a solid rapper in his own right. He's third in the league in scoring, averaging 31.1 points a night on a 48/39/88 split.

And before I move on, let's acknowledge one of the coldest game winners I've ever seen in my life

Whew!

In the other corner, we have a multiple time All Star, face of the franchise, and late game assassin. Kyrie Irving has always been a fantastic scorer, but now that he has control of an offense in ways he hasn't since he first entered the NBA, he's really gotten to display his complete arsenal. Irving is second in the league in scoring, averaging 31.7 points a night on a 47.2/38.3/92.5 shooting split. It’s a damn shame this matchup won’t be on national TV tonight. Maybe next time

From the Vault

"Put in 24 hour shifts, but that ain't me now..."

More reading: Blazersedge