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Nets come home to face the shorthanded Suns

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Dallas Mavericks v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

That one hurt. The Brooklyn Nets had a chance to come away with a much needed victory, but were unable to pull it out at the end and lost to the Washington Wizards on Saturday night. Luckily for the Nets, the loss could've been a million times worse. We'll get to that in a second.

The opponent tonight will be the Phoenix Suns. The Suns are still eons away from their Seven Seconds or Less glory days, but maybe they’re back on the right track. They lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in Milwaukee yesterday afternoon.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. Tip off after 7:30.

Injuries

Kyrie Irving left Saturday's game after suffering a scary knee injury. He was diagnosed with a medial ligament sprain and will be reevaluated in a week. Hopefully there will be some good news to report then. Otherwise, only Kevin Durant is out. Dzanan Musa is back from Long Island. Theo Pinson remains with the Nets G League affiliate.

Dario Saric is out. Frank Kaminsky is out indefinitely. Aron Baynes missed yesterday's game with a hip injury, no word on his status tonight. Cam Johnson is out. Ricky Rubio has been bothered by an ankle injury and his availability is unknown.

The game

Phoenix won the first meeting back in November.

This is the back half of a back-to-back for the Suns. They play their third game in four nights and wrap up their three game road trip in Detroit on Wednesday.

It would be understandable if the Nets players and fans are overlooking this game a bit. An old friend of ours is due to be back in town on Wednesday night.

On Saturday, we discussed how pissed Bradley Beal was at being left off the All Star team. Not to be outdone, but Devin Booker is pretty pissed, too. He spoke about it recently and said:

“It was always a goal of mine [to be an All-Star], but it just reproves the point that the NBA is different than the game that I fell in love with at the beginning—of all the best players in the All-Star game—growing up watching that. And now it’s an entertainment-, drama-, political-filled league.

But we’re a part of it now. It pays well so I guess we should be quiet about it."

Eek, but to be fair, Book has been putting work this year. He's averaging a career high 27 points a game and has boosted his field goal percentage for the third straight season. He continues to add to his offensove arsenal and one of these days, the Suns will be useful and get him the help he needs so he can make it to the playoffs. Clock's ticking.

The Nets are gonna need Caris Levert to step it up. Ever since he came back from his hand injury, he hasn't been able to find his footing. With Irving out, he'll get more opportunities to run the second unit and make some shots. He hasn't been in the closing lineups at the end of close games, and we'll see if he's able to break through and get himself on the court late if it's close.

Player to watch: Deandre Ayton

So, it's been a bumpy year for the 2018 number one pick. He was suspended 25 games for testing positive for drugs right after Opening Night, and lost his starting apot when he returned. He's back as a starter, and you can see the growth in his game. Over at Bright Side of the Sun, Samuel Cooper wrote about Ayton's defense, among other things:

Is he the next Gobert? That’s very unlikely. But the Suns have built a competitive enough team that Ayton has something to play for this season, and that combined with development from the coaching staff has led to a more well-rounded, highly-engaged player.

The next step for him on this side of the court is to become a trusted communicator, patrolling on the back end and helping his guards see a play unfold before it happens.

That will come with time. So too, hopefully, will the three-point shooting.

As long as he continues to develop, the Suns will be in a good space.

Jarrett Allen will look to tangle with Ayton on the interior.

From the Vault

Let’s learn about one of the most important journalists and activists in American history, Ida B. Wells.

More reading: Bright Side of the Sun