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Nets play Clippers before heading home to Brooklyn

Boston Celtics v LA Clippers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

Took a hell of a punch, but didn’t get knocked out. The Brooklyn Nets were on their way to a dominant win against the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas night, but LeBron James and friends came all the way back from 23 points down in the fourth quarter to tie it up late. Fortunately for the Nets, they got it together in time and came away with a holiday win. The Nets go home after this to wrap up 2021.

The opponent tonight will be the Los Angeles Clippers. Ty Lue has seen his team wrecked by injuries, but they’ve hung tough and are in the top six of the Western Conference standings. They played at home last night and lost a close one to the Denver Nuggets. After this, they hit the road to close out 2021 and bring in 2022.

Where to follow the game

YES Network for the locals, NBATV for the out of towners. WFAN on radio. Late night affair so we’re getting started after 10:30 PM Eastern time.

Injuries

Joe Harris is still out as he continues to recover from ankle surgery. Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kyrie Irving, Cam Thomas, David Duke, Jr, Kessler Edwards, and DayRon Sharpe in COVID protocols. Langston Galloway was extended another 10 days under hardship exception rules.

On Christmas night, it was announced All Star wing Paul George suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and will be reevaluated in three to four weeks. Kawhi Leonard is still out as he continues to recover from knee surgery. Marcus Morris, Sr., Jay Scrubb, and Reggie Jackson are in health and safety protocols. Jason Preston is out with a right foot injury. Isaiah Hartenstein is out with a left ankle sprain.

The game

It’s a homecoming! Blake Griffin spent seven and a half mostly excellent years with the Clippers before they sent him to Detroit. BG isn’t all that interested in mending things with Steve Ballmer and Doc Rivers for now, but they’ll have time to get that straight in the long run.

Oh. Oh my

Nic Claxton had the best moment of his pro career on Saturday night with that dunk and he’ll continue manning the middle for Brooklyn. The Clips have been one of the weakest rebounding teams in the NBA this year (27th in rebound rate), so Clax will have a chance to help Brooklyn control the boards. Ivica Zubac and Serge Ibaka will look to counter him.

Over the weekend, it was reported the New York Liberty have reached out to former Liberty star and current San Antonio Spurs assistant head coach, Becky Hammon, for their head coaching vacancy. The Bonnet Gang talked about Hammon possibly coming to the WNBA in their debut episode (!!!) with Swish Appeal. Give it a listen

The elbow injury was giving PG trouble, but still, it’s hard as hell to replace a 25-point a game scorer. Nic Batum will be someone asked to do some more. From his Olympics play, we’ve seen him be able to orchestrate an offense and step up to provide more offense so the Clippers are going to need that from him going forward. Terance Mann had a star turn in the 2021 playoffs and will see his responsibilities increase tenfold with PG out.

Patty Mills showed out on Christmas and set a record along the way. He made eight three pointers, surpassing the record seven threes Kyrie Irving made last year against the Boston Celtics. When Mills is on target from deep, the Nets are impossible to stop. He’s shot 40 percent or better from downtown in three of his past four games and as it so happens, the Nets won the games in which he shot well from deep. With Durant and Aldridge out, Mills slots up to the second scoring option on offense and it fits perfectly. He’s a ball of energy and the perfect player on the court and in the locker room.

Player to watch: Eric Bledsoe

It’s been a bumpy couple of years for Bledsoe. He had good regular seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks, but three straight disastrous postseason appearances marked the end of his time there. Last year with the New Orleans Pelicans was a mess, but in his defense, the Pels’ roster construction had him taking WAY more threes than he should have. Now that he’s back where his career began, he’s looking more like his old self. He’s cut down on the threes and although his shooting percentages still aren’t great, he’s still been solid in his role. With George out, Bledsoe and the rest of the Clippers will need to do more to maintain their playoff spot.

For a guy who had missed two weeks, James Harden looked pretty damn solid on Christmas night. He put up 36/10/10 in 38 minutes with 17 free throw attempts and only four turnovers to go along with it. He had an awful fourth quarter but he did more than enough in the first three to remind you how awesome he is when he’s locked in. When Harden is going downhill, he forces opposing defenses into impossible choices. Focus on him, he’ll find big fella for the lob or somebody open in the corners. Play back and he’ll hit you with a floater. As Harden regains his rhythm and orchestrates the Nets attack, he will help the Nets maintain their place among the elite teams in the NBA.

Harden also got his high school jersey retired yesterday

That’s dope as hell

Expanded testing begins

As AP’s Tim Reynolds reports Monday, players face new testing protocols as the league and player union wants players to get their booster shots.

Expanded testing, agreed to earlier this month, went into place Sunday for players who have yet to receive their booster shots. The new testing plan is expected to remain in place until Jan. 8, after weeks of urging by the league and the National Basketball Players Association for players to get boosted.

By early Sunday evening, the numbers of players known to be in the protocols was up to 116 — and probably slightly higher, considering some teams had yet to update injury reports. Numbers can fluctuate quickly as players test in and out, and being on the protocols list does not always mean someone has tested positive.

The Nets have also posted an early reminder of new city requirements for those planning to attend Thursday’s home game vs. the 76ers...

Stay safe out there.

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