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Nets come home to face red hot Phoenix Suns

Dallas Mavericks v Phoenix Suns Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Objects are not closer than they appear. The Boston Celtics tried to make an improbable comeback on Wednesday night, but the Brooklyn Nets made sure that didn’t happen as they rolled on to a dominant 19 point victory on Wednesday night. The W was their fourth in a row and helped them stay atop the Eastern Conference.

The opponent tonight will be the Phoenix Suns. The Suns have been the hottest team in basketball this month and figure to make some noise as they look to repeat as Western Conference champions. They’ve been in NYC for the Thanksgiving holiday and beat the New York Knicks last night. Their winning streak is now at 15, tied for the second longest in team history.

Where to follow the game

YES Network for the locals. NBATV for the out of towners. WFAN on radio. Tip off after 7:30.

Injuries

Joe Harris and Nicolas Claxton are out. Bruce Brown is listed as probable with left hamstring tightness. No word on Kyrie Irving.

Dario Saric, Abdel Nader, and Frank Kaminsky are out.

The game

One of the biggest stories in the NBA this season centered around Suns owner, Robert Sarver. ESPN’s Baxter Holmes reported on years of racism and misogyny perpetrated by Sarver as he’s been in charge of the team. Not to be outdone, his wife, Penny Sarver, sent intimidating to three former Suns employees as well. The team is denying the allegations and the league office is investigating. The league ownership always positions themselves as allies when it comes to issues of race and equality, and it’s important to heed these words from Hall of Famer Paul Pierce when we think of these “allies:”

“It’s easy to come to the forefront when it’s comfortable and it’s the right time … because that’s what everybody is doing. It’s easy to make yourself look good. It’s easy to throw money out there to help a cause. But that doesn’t mean it changes the person or who you are.”

Back on the court, Phoenix is still led by an all-time great point guard and all-time great pain in the ass. Chris Paul leads the NBA in assists again and while he’s never at the rim these days, he still makes a killing in the midrange and can still make things happen. When you have a player like Paul that always makes the right play and can take over late when need be, it always for more freedom and a sense of comfort.

Second in the NBA in assists is CP3’s old running mate, James Harden. Even when his shots aren’t falling, Harden is making sure the other players are involved and putting them in good positions to score. There’s still room for Harden to get back to where he was at before the hamstring injury, but this version is still pretty damn good in his own right.

Similar to the Golden State Warriors game, the Nets aren’t treating this as a “big game.” That may be true, but damn it, this is a game between two of the best teams in the sport on winning streaks. This is a fun matchup and I’m excited as hell to watch.

Who gets the Devin Booker assignment? All signs point to DeAndre Bembry as he’s been inserted into the starting five as Bruce Brown has been out with the hamstring injury. Book has been his usual excellent self as the Olympic Gold Medalist can score all over the court, make impossible shots, and create great looks for his teammates. The Suns have done a great job of taking care of the ball, and Booker has been a huge part of that. His turnover rate has decreased for the third straight season and when you have a scorer like him making the most out of possessions every time he has the rock, good things are guaranteed to happen. Having Brown back should help give the Nets one more quality option to throw his way.

We’ll be saying hello to an old friend of ours tonight. Landry Shamet was traded over the summer in exchange for Jevon Carter and the 29th pick in the 2021 Draft which turned into Day’Ron Sharpe. Carter’s gradually started to get comfortable in his role with the second unit. If he can start to knock down his open threes at a more consistent clip, it will take the Nets up another level. He’s made 6-of-14 in his last three games, a 42.9 percent clip, roughly what he put up for Phoenix the last two seasons.

Get ready to run. Both these teams are top ten in pace and although this is the second night of a back-to-back, they didn’t have to travel so they’re a little more rested on this B2B than usual.

Who gets the Kevin Durant assignment for Phoenix? BOSSMAN99, aka Jae Crowder, figures to be contestant number one. He’ll try to muscle Durant around and force him out of his comfort spots and into difficult jumpers. That’s easier said than done as KD has set fire to practically every defense ever invented. Durant passed Allen Iverson for 25th all time in scoring on Wednesday, and next up on the list is Ray Allen. KD spoke about passing AI and said this:

“It means the world. I dedicated my life to this game at an early age, so I watched all of these guys and I’m like passing up [on the list]. I wanted to be like them and be in the NBA like that and make an impact in the league like them, so Iverson was a pantheon for me.”

It’s a beautiful thing.

Player to watch: DeAndre Ayton

What do you do when someone has your money but won’t give it to you? That’s the question DeAndre Ayton has been wondering after Suns ownership didn’t give him the extension he was looking for in the offseason. This is a huge year for the 2018 No. 1 pick and he’s met the challenge so far. He’s fifth in the Association in rebounds per game and is shooting a career best 63 percent from the field. His offensive repertoire is more refined, and with the help of veteran big and two time NBA Champion, Javale McGee, we’re starting to see a fully formed version of DA. He recently spoke about his game and had this to say:

“I’ve seen the flaws and the mistakes and stuff that I should have done in the playoffs and Finals, especially the Finals. I didn’t like the way I performed in the Finals. I’m trying to make a mark, trying to get used to certain things that I wasn’t used to doing. I used to do them, because that’s my play style, but just get my memory back on scoring the ball in many different ways.”

The Suns are an already dangerous foe. Ayton at full capacity along with Book and CP3? Woo buddy.

The Nets made a switch to the starting five on Wednesday as LaMarcus Aldridge replaced Blake Griffin as the starting center. On Friday night, Steve Nash mentioned that the team will be experimenting with their big rotation going forward, and it sounds as if BG will be the odd man out for the time being. Now that LMA is in the starting five, he allows for more space on offense and his excellent play has buoyed the Nets and helped get them to best in the East. If he can make life difficult for Ayton and continue giving Brooklyn that scoring punch from the five, then they’ll have a great chance at picking up a statement victory.

From the Vault

Best point guard in Nets history taking on the best point guard in Suns history? Sounds like my kind of party

If you want to read more about the game, there’s Mike Mazzeo’s oral history which can be found here.

More reading: Bright Side of the Sun