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Nets begin homestand vs. Grizzlies ... without Kevin Durant

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Atlanta Hawks v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Almost stole it. The Brooklyn Nets got their first competitive game of the season and found themselves down a bunch in the fourth quarter. They were able to mount a furious comeback and were a possession away from coming back home with a win. However, it wasn’t meant to be as the Charlotte Hornets got their first win of the season and gave Brooklyn their first loss. The Nets can get used to home cooking as they’ll be at Barclays for the next week and a half before heading back on the road.

However, Sunday’s loss cost the Nets more than a place in the standings. As reported Monday morning, Spencer Dinwiddie suffered a partial tear of his ACL. He’ll be out for a while. Surgery is scheduled for next week.

The opponent tonight will be the Memphis Grizzlies. Fresh off their play in appearance at the bubble, the Grizz are hoping to sneak their way back into the playoffs. They’re not off to the best after falling to 0-2 with a loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday afternoon. They’ll spend the rest of 2020 and first day of 2021 on the road as tonight is the start of a three game road trip that will take them to Boston on Wednesday and Charlotte on New Year’s Day.

And oh yeah, Ja Morant!

Where to follow the game

YES Network for the locals. NBATV for the out-of-towners. WCBS 880 AM on the radio. Tip off after 7:30.

Injuries

Spencer Dinwiddie is out. Kevin Durant will rest for the first time. Jeff Green got hit with a stray elbow, but he returned and should be ready to go. Nicolas Claxton is still out with knee tendinopathy.

De’Anthony Melton, Xavier Tillman, Killian Tillie, and Jontay Porter are out. Justise Winslow and Jaren Jackson, Jr. are recovering from injuries they suffered last season and won’t be around for a while.

The game

No surprise KD is out. It’s night two of a back-to-back and third game in four nights. Durant was pretty rock solid in his 36 minutes of action last night, and Steve Nash gave a really great answer when discussing managing KD’s minutes:

“I almost don’t want to have a preconceived plan. We have ideas about limiting the amount of minutes, impact, and minute congestion for sure. We want to protect Kevin coming off 18 months of recovery and the rest of the guys as well. We want to be careful with different people, different vulnerabilities, and try to make smart-longterm decisions as we can. I don’t know if we can say there’s a plan right now. It is more of we will continue to monitor the situation and make sure we make the safest and soundest decisions for the group in that moment...

One interesting wrinkle about last night was the play of Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. He played the entire fourth quarter after Dinwiddie got hurt and fit like a glove in the lineup with Durant, Kyrie Irving, Joe Harris, and Jarrett Allen. TLC is one of the team’s best shooters and as the team juggles minutes and figures out what lineups work in winning time, I wonder if TLC will carve out a bigger role for himself on the second unit.

Every mention I’ve seen of Brandon Clarke so far this season has focused on his funky looking jump shot. Over at Grizzly Bear Blues, Parker Fleming discussed how the sophomore’s early woes and if playing center would be the best use of his talents:

It could be the best role for him, since it does provide him more spacing and pace — as opposed to playing the 4 next to Jonas Valanciunas or Gorgui Dieng. As he navigates this struggle, it could tell a lot about how Clarke needs to be used going forward. Is he going to be a featured option in the second unit? Or will he be just an energy guy alongside the starters, or a combination of them? Will he regain his touch from both around the paint and from deep?

I wouldn’t give up on Clarke just yet. He missed training camp due to injury, and he could be getting his legs back under him. He also has displayed a strong work ethic to his craft since his early college days. This slump isn’t the verdict on him.

If he does play the 5 for an extended period, he’ll be doing battle with Jarrett Allen. The Nets only lost the rebounding battle by six to the Hornets, but were outscored by 38 points in the paint. There have been concerns about Brooklyn’s defense and as the roster gets more comfortable with each other, those fears should gradually dissipate as the season progresses.

Player to watch: Ja Morant

Without JJJ, Morant will be the man running the show for Memphis. Ja has already become one of the better point guards in the league and his athleticism and ability to finish at the rim is astounding. Memphis plays at one of the fastest paces in the league and for a team on the second leg after a b2b and a close game the night before, Ja should have his guys off to the races early. He’s currently averaging 36.0 points per game, behind only James Harden and Trae Young.

Man look at this...

Kyrie is one of the more mesmerizing players in the league to watch and having him back at full strength is great for the game. For tonight, I wonder how the Nets guard rotation will look when Irving sits (and presumably Dinwiddie is out). Tyler Johnson has only played in garbage time thus far, but has shown himself to be a reliable player for the Nets. Steve Nash has mentioned the team’s depth and for a night like this, I think it would be a good idea to showcase that depth and empower the second unit guys along with your top guns.

From the Vault

Why yes, I do want to start the last week of the year with 8ball and MJG.

More reading: Grizzly Bear Blues