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Nets move on, head to L.A. to match Clippers

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NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Los Angeles Clippers Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The Nets were not able to grab their first win on The Big Road Trip in Utah, dropping the game 114-98. It wasn’t pretty. Brooklyn has had a rough go of it so far on the West Coast, and it isn’t about to get any easier with a back-to-back against the playoff bound Clippers. The Nets will travel to LA for the Clippers game, take a quick jaunt up to Sacramento for a game on Tuesday, and then head back to Los Angeles to play the Lakers on Friday.

Would’ve been nice to not have to travel for a few days, but the Nets are going to have to make the best of it. Maybe they’ll shock us and win on the second half of a back-to-back, something they’ve done three times already this season. The Clippers are good, have a 40-30 record, and are the eighth seed in the West. Let’s get into it.

Where to Follow the Game

YES and WFAN at 9pm, ET

Injuries

Allen Crabbe (knee) is out. Shabbazz Napier (hamstring) and Treveon Graham (back) are back.

Luc Mbah a Moute (knee) is out.

The Game

The Clippers are one of the NBA’s biggest surprises this season, even moreso considering their success after trading Tobias Harris, widely considered to have been their best player in the first half of the season. He’s been replaced largely by a committee of new players which include Landry Shamet, Jamychal Green, and Ivica Zubac who all came over in separate trades. Since the All-Star Break, the Clippers are 8-3 and have locked up a playoff spot, edging out the Kings and the Lakers who have taken a step back while the Clippers have been full steam ahead.

Los Angeles runs out a starting five of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Patrick Beverley, Landry Shamet, Danilo Gallinari, and Ivica Zubac. Not the most glamorous set of players to ever grace the Staples Center court, but they work really well together. Gallinari is finally healthy after battling injury issues for years, and has been scoring 22.8 points since the break. He can play inside and out and might pose some matchup issues for Brooklyn in this one. The SGA and Beverley backcourt is also pretty feisty on defense with SGA’s length and Patrick Beverley’s pesky individual defense. D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie are going to have their hands full.

Jarrett Allen is not a high volume scorer. We know this. He sets good screens and blocks shots and hits layups and throws down dunks. He does exactly what the Nets need him to do at all time and that is extraordinarily valuable. The Clippers, however, might be a team Allen could be able to put up a few extra points on. Jarrett has scored over 20 points thrice this season, against Houston, Atlanta, and guess who else? The Clippers! I truly didn’t know that when I began writing this section, but it makes sense. The Clippers have a sort of weak big man rotation as far as defense goes, with Zubac taking up that starting spot and Montrezl Harrell coming off of the bench. Harrell fouls a lot, and Zubac isn’t the most mobile center in the league. This could be a game where Allen gets a couple more pick and rolls called for him, and maybe draws a couple of extra fouls on Harrell, who fouls 4.4 times per 36 minutes.

This matchup will feature what might be the two best bench units in the NBA. LA’s bench scores 53.1 points per game to go along with 19.9 rebounds and 10.8 assists. The points and assists are the highest mark in the league, while the rebounds rank second. Brooklyn, on the other hand, puts up 47.5 points, 22.4 rebounds, and 9.5 assists. They rank second in points, third in assists, and first in rebounds. Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell are the Clippers two best bench players, and watching Dinwiddie and Williams trade buckets is going to be a lot of fun. Those are three legitimate 6th man of the year award candidates in the same game.

Since the All Star Break, the Clippers have the eighth best Net Rating in the NBA at 3.0 while the Nets are 12th with a 1.4 mark. If LA has a discernable weakness it’s that they make the 26th lowest amount of threes per game in the league, hitting on just 9.8 attempts per contest. The Nets, for comparison, average 12.5 per game. Brooklyn is also great at preventing three pointers from opposing teams, holding other teams to just 10.5 makes per game which is good for 5th in the league. If the Nets can completely stifle the Clippers deep threats they might have a shot at stealing a back-to-back on Sunday.

Player to Watch

I once made Landry Shamet my player to watch when he was still with Philadelphia, and while Tobias Harris is a great player who’s succeeding in his new city, I don’t totally understand why the Sixers had to throw Shamet into that deal. I am, however, glad they did. Shamet seems to have learned a lot playing half a season with J.J. Reddick, and he’s doing a pretty damn good impression of the former Clipper Sharpshooter, scoring 11.9 points per game on 42/47/87 shooting since coming over to LA.

From The Vault

It’s Sunday, and if you haven’t noticed by now, that means you get a song. Hope you all had good weeks and are about to have better ones. And if not, it’ll be Spring soon anyway which is fun.

Enjoy everybody.

For a different perspective, head on to Clips Nation, our Clippers sister site on SB Nation.