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UPDATE: Nets come home to face the Thunder. Durant available, Irving out

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Orlando Magic v Oklahoma City Thunder Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images

Threw that one away. The Brooklyn Nets dug themselves into a big ole hole, dug themselves out of said hole, and had a great chance to steal a victory on Friday night. However, they got sloppy late and it wound up costing them as they lost to the Memphis Grizzlies.

The opponent tonight will be the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder aren’t expected to make it back to the playoffs, but they’re hanging tough so far. They’ve been in town the past few days after beating the Knicks at MSG on Friday night.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WCBS 880 AM on radio (it’s a super wildcard weekend so WFAN is on NFL duty.). Tip off after 6 PM.

Injuries

Nicolas Claxton and Spencer Dinwiddie are out. Tyler Johnson is in the COVID protocol program. Kevin Durant returns from COVID protocol and suits up tonight. He is listed as available, as of 3:40 pm, ET. Kyrie Irving remains out for personal reasons.

Our man Pooch has some news on why the 11 of 7/11 is out, and for some of y’all in the comments, I need you to quit making guesses about Irving’s mental health or whatever. Cut that shit out. (Editor’s Note: We deleted more 50 comments Saturday night.)

Trevor Ariza is out.

The game

I completely forgot Al Horford was on this team until I looked it up. For a young team like OKC, having vets like Horford will help immensely. However, it’s been an ugly season for the former All Star as he’s at career lows in a lot of categories. From the outside looking in, it might be the result of getting used to a new system and conference. And most importantly, it’s early in the year and Horford ought to bounce back the deeper we go along.

There’s something to be said for knowing when to pause the action and get your important players back on the court. As Jarrett Allen sat on the bench Friday, the game looked like it was slipping away from the Nets. Allen eventually got back, but only got 47 seconds (yes 47 seconds) of playing time in the decisive quarter. Granted it was the second night of a back-to-back and ideally you don’t want to overwork a key player, but Allen only played 28:25 in the dominant win the night before and is someone that needs to be out there in winning time, so the coaching staff can stand to do better next time. You can’t afford to go a whole quarter without one of your best players and expect to come away with the win.

As a general rule, I’m opposed to tanking and this bit from J.D. Tailor from Welcome to Loud City explains it as it relates to OKC:

The other clear benefit is that winning is conducive to the development of young players. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Darius Bazley and Luguentz Dort will all grow immeasurably if they end up playing meaningful games late into the season. A full season of mentorship with two good veterans should also not be ignored.

The criticism of this approach is that the Thunder will fail to get a high pick in the 2021 NBA Draft; the chance to get a blue-chip prospect will be lost. However, this criticism does not hold much weight when the Thunder’s asset cupboard is considered.

Oklahoma City have acquired so many draft picks for the purpose of building a strong team that can compete in the long-term. Oklahoma City did not get these picks so that they could take prospects in four or five years time. The Thunder could use these future draft picks to move up in the 2021 NBA Draft and get the player that they want.

If 7/11 is back, what will the lineup around them look like? If I had to guess, Bruce Brown and Allen are guarantees to remain in the starting five. Maybe Jeff Green stays in the opening lineup to help out on the boards? However Nash goes about it with his latest lineup experiment, he’ll have to be ready to switch it up at a moment’s notice.

One big question if they return: how will Caris LeVert mesh with 7/11?

Fresh off a good game on primetime against the 76ers, he went brazy (crazy plus brazen) in the second half on Friday, scoring 25 points and going 6-of-6 from 3-point range.

LeVert has averaged 29.7 points over the three games KD has been out and had 43 two nights ago in the loss to Memphis. He’s been The Man but understandably when KD and Kyrie are on the floor, he is the third man. At points this young season, his struggles have been pronounced, so maybe this week will be the beginning of an extended run of excellence for him.

Expect experimentation from Steve Nash.

Player to watch: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Now that SGA is the man running the show in Oklahoma City, he’s having to do more on offense. He’s getting to the rim a bit less and taking more three pointers and it hasn’t affected his numbers too much. As expected he’s got more ballhandling responsibilities and his assists have gone up (turnovers too but that’s to be expected for a player getting their first shot at running the show). He’s one of the more promising young players in the NBA and as OKC looks to rebuild and figure out what their team will look like in the future, SGA’s continued development will go a long way in determining which direction they go.

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