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Nets and Clippers open up Black History Month in snowy Brooklyn

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LA Clippers v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

You get the losses you deserve. The Brooklyn Nets had the lead for most of the game on Sunday night, but tricked it off and lost an embarrassing one to the Washington Wizards. The L stopped their four game winning streak and has led to a new round of questions that the team will need to answer in a hurry.

The opponent on the other side will be the Los Angeles Clippers. They have a lot to prove and have been one of the best teams in the Association this season and in fact have the NBA’s best record, 16-5. They’ve been in town the past few days after beating the New York Knicks on Sunday afternoon in MSG. The W was their third in a row and tenth in the last 11 games. The Clippers wrap up their five-game road trip and begin a back-to-back on Thursday night in Cleveland. They go home to face the Boston Celtics on Friday night.

Where to follow the game

TNT on television. As we say, no YES. WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. If you’re like me and don’t wanna be bothered with the “analysis” of Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal, I’d recommend finding a dope playlist to listen to at halftime. At least that won’t get you mad. Party gets started after 7:30.

Injuries

Spencer Dinwiddie and Nicolas Claxton are out. James Harden missed Sunday’s game with a thigh contusion, but wasn’t on the injury report for this one so he should be good to go tonight. Iman Shumpert won’t be able to play as he needs to continue testing negatively for COVID 19 before suiting up. Norvel Pelle is available.

Nicolas Batum missed Sunday’s game with a groin injury and is questionable. Patrick Beverley and Jay Scrubb are out.

The game

For those of us that are outside during the storm, remember to walk slowly and take your time when you’re trying to get to where you need to be. Stay safe out here, y’all.

We’re gonna be seeing a familiar face at Barclays tonight. It was around this time last year the Nets got rid of Kenny Atkinson as head coach. Atkinson is back coaching as an assistant with Tyronn Lue’s staff, so he made out pretty well all things considered.

Speaking of Lue, he’s got a tricky job managing this season. The Clippers can end up with the best record in the league by the end of the season, but it won’t matter at all to fans and analysts as the memories of the team’s flameout against the Denver Nuggets still linger in all of our minds. Such is life when your organization spent a year yapping and acting like the regular season didn’t matter only to blow it when it was title time.

You’ve probably seen this tweet already, so here it is one more time!

The Nets are 6-3 since the big trade and are a few percentage points behind the Milwaukee Bucks for second in the Eastern Conference standings. The sky isn’t falling in Brooklyn and they’ll win their fair share of games. However, the Nets are in the high rent district now so just winning games isn’t good enough. They have a lot to clean up and get right if they want to play deep into May and June.

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the Nets staggering their star players’ minutes, and the second quarter of Sunday’s game is a perfect reason why. With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on the bench, the Nets let a comfortable lead slip away and allowed the Wizards to get back into the game, which led to... well, you read the opening to this story. Steve Nash and friends have to manage minutes so his stars aren’t out here for close to 40 minutes a night while ensuring the second unit isn’t left on an island to fend for itself.

The Nets defense sucks —or “struggling” if you prefer— and the Clips have the third best offense in the league this season. All signs point to this being a shootout. With this being a showcase game, my guy Matt Brooks laid out what this game can mean for the Nets defense:

To be truthful, I think we’ll learn a lot about who these Nets really are when the LA Clippers come to town. With an offense that is humming like the sweet songbirds during the first months of spring, Tyronn Lue has got his group performing with a vastly improved sense of pride to the tune of the best offense in the NBA, per Cleaning the Glass. Will the Dr. Jekyll Nets exhibit mastery of the base scheme, with accents of impromptu creativity to catch the opposition off guard? Or will the Nets be overtaken by their worst tendencies and fall flat on their faces with nowhere to Hyde?

The Clippers play at one of the slowest paces in the league while Brooklyn is at one of the fastest. We’ve got ourselves a nice little contrast in styles tonight. I dig it

I wouldn’t want him being the guy in charge, but as a second option, I could live with Paul George. He’s been fantastic throughout this season and is in line to join the 50/40/90 club if he keeps the pace up. George is one of the better players in the league and his ability to hit threes of all stripes makes him very, very difficult to game plan for. If I had to guess, he’ll get the James Harden matchup. Harden is back after sitting last game with a thigh contusion. He’ll solve the Nets second unit woes as he has been getting a lot of run with that unit since moving East. Harden’s been doing a great (as expected) job of creating for his teammates since coming to Brooklyn and has been delivering in the clutch late for the team as well. No wonder he was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week.

Player to watch: Kawhi Leonard

For a player that has two Finals MVPs to his name, Leonard has a lot to prove this season. After all, he was the player in charge of a team that had an all time collapse in the playoffs last fall and fell apart himself in the second half of an elimination game. When you get put in that LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry tier, you need to do what they do when it’s winning time.

In the meantime, Leonard has been his usual excellent self. He’s only missed games this season thanks to COVID protocols and a stray elbow from Serge Ibaka early in the season. Ty Lue has him playing a few more minutes per game this season and like PG, is on pace for his own 50/40/90 season. Leonard is an all time great player and it’s a joy to watch him back at full strength this season.

Kevin Durant is the guy in charge for Brooklyn and it’ll be up to him to get them back on track after a disastrous loss on Sunday. KD wasn’t stressing the bad loss on Sunday and encouraged the team to get rid of it and focus on getting back on the winning side. Durant has been sensational for Brooklyn and this matchup between he and Leonard figures to be one of the best we see this season. KD can score from anywhere on the court and will pose difficult matchup questions for Leonard, Lue, and the Clippers.

Coach to watch? Kenny Atkinson returns to Barclays Center for the first time since he unceremoniously let go the first week of March, days before the pandemic ruined everything. Atkinson is one of Ty Lue’s assistants. Also on the bench is Shaun Fein, who was head coach of Long Island last year.

From the Vault

Let’s start Black History Month off right by saluting one of our favorites around these parts, Big Boi!

More reading: Clips Nation