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Nets host Wizards in Sunday night showdown

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Orlando Magic v Washington Wizards Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Not moving and not grooving. The Brooklyn Nets opened up 2021 hoping to sweep a mini two game series against the much improved Atlanta Hawks. Unfortunately for them, the Hawks took it to them and handed Brooklyn an 18 point loss on Friday night.

The opponent tonight will be the Washington Wizards. It’s been a rocky start for Scott Brooks’ crew, but they opened 2021 in style with their first win of the season in Minnesota against the Wolves on Friday night in Minnesota.

Where to follow the game

YES Network for the locals, NBATV for the out-of-towners. WCBS 880 AM on radio. Tip off after 6 PM.

Injuries

Nicolas Claxton and Spencer Dinwiddie are out.

All clear for the Wiz.

The game

This is the third game in four nights and second leg of a four game road trip for the Wiz. They get two days off after this before resuming the road trip in Philadelphia against the 76ers on Wednesday night.

I saw Matt Brooks mention on Twitter that the Nets were 27th in shots at the rim according to Cleaning the Glass. That did strike me as a surprising stat considering the roster the Nets have, but on the bright side they have been one of the best teams in converting those shots so far this season. The team’s offensive attack is heavily predicated on three pointers, and on nights when it isn’t falling, they’ll need to do a better job of getting shots at the rim. It makes for a more diverse, dangerous offensive attack.

Ultimately, the big issues surrounding the team are defense and rebounding. The Hawks roughed the Nets up on the boards and were able to open up on Brooklyn’s second unit. We can’t read too much into six games, but there is some cause for concern. At the same time, there is room for optimism. Caris Levert explains:

“I feel like not a lot of people think of defense as a skill. I think people think of defense as effort, trying hard on that end of the floor, and thinking. I think one through fifteen, we are all pretty good athletes and everyone is capable of playing defense. I think that’s why guys that are ‘defenders’ aren’t necessarily highly valued because this is a scoring league. Scoring is what’s pretty and what people value in this league. We feel like if we can teach someone to play defense if you can teach in the right spot then that is much more valued than a guy that can’t necessarily score so well.”

Thomas Bryant figures to make life difficult for DeAndre Jordan and the Nets first unit to start off. TB has been one of the better players from the 2017 Draft and has improved each season he’s been in the league. He can stretch the floor, which serves to pull DJ and Jarrett Allen away from the rim.

This one’s gonna be a track meet. The Wiz are third in pace while the Nets clock in at sixth. The Wizards were speed demons last season and that’s kept up now that Russell Westbrook is in town. It’s taking Russ some time to get fully acclimated into the new system, but it’s early and he’ll get there eventually. He’ll have his hands full with Kyrie Irving. Irving is coming off of a poor game on Friday so we know he’ll be out on a mission tonight. On the bright side, he tied for the game high in rebounds with 11. The Nets are going to need everyone to attack the boards and limit opponent second chance shots, so why not have your team leader set that example.

On one hand, it’s always kinda scary seeing Kevin Durant fall during game. However, he keeps getting back up and doing his thing so that’s all that matters, right? It also doesn’t hurt that he’s putting up a 50/50/90 split thus far.

Player to watch: Bradley Beal

It wasn’t that long ago when Beal was the rumored star guard coming to Brooklyn. All of that talk has died down for now, and Beal is back to being the franchise player for Washington. Both NBA and WNBA players have been pushing for social reform, and Beal + Natasha Cloud of the Washington Mystics have held it down in DC. When you’re the leader of the organization, you have to take on those responsibilities and be that person that speaks up for your people and the city you rep. Beal has done that and then some and will go down as one of the best players in Wizards history.

Surprisingly, Beal’s three point shot hasn’t arrived yet. He’s shooting a career low 27.3 percent from downtown, and I wonder how Scott Brooks will free him up for some quality looks from deep. Beal is still one of the league’s most dynamic scorers, so even if he isn’t firing from all cylinders from deep, he can still put 30 on you. Watch out.

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot has started the past few games, and it hasn’t gone well for him. The energy’s there, but the shot hasn’t been this week. Naturally, it’s led to discussion of including recent acquisition Bruce Brown into the regular rotation. Brown would provide a spark on defense, which would be perfect for a night like tonight. Sixth man extraordinaire Caris Levert will get his turns guarding Beal and leading the second unit tonight. The second unit struggled against Atlanta and when the big guys sit, you gotta keep things humming. We’ll see how the Nets adjust tonight

From the Vault

Rest in peace to Paul Westphal. Westy was the Nets lead assistant under Lionel Hollins for two seasons and when the Nets decided to give Hollins the heave-ho five years ago this month, Westphal was so loyal, he decided that he’d quit, even though he could’ve stayed on as the interim head coach.

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