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Nets look to complete perfect road trip against Clippers

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Los Angeles Clippers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Put yourself back on the map. The Brooklyn Nets went into Thursday night’s primetime affair in Los Angeles against the defending champs looking to keep the good times rolling and prove a point. They managed to do both after coming away with an impressive win against the Lakers. This is the last night of the road trip and a win here would extend their winning streak to six games and give them a perfect 5-0 road trip.

The opponent tonight will be the Los Angeles Clippers. Ty Lue and friends have weathered the injury storm and find themselves near the top of the Western Conference standings. They’re coming off of a great win at home against the Utah Jazz on Friday and have won five out of their last six games. Good stuff.

Where to follow the game

YES Network and ESPN on TV. WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. Primetime party so we getting started after 8 p.m. ET.

Injuries

Surprise! Nic Claxton, who’s been out all year with right knee tendinopathy, is available vs. the Clips! Kevin Durant, Spencer Dinwiddie and Iman Shumpert are out as is Tyler Johnson (left adductor tightness).

The Clips are back at full strength and the only guys out are Daniel Otaru and Jay Scrubb.

The game

Brooklyn won the first game earlier this month.

Pace could determine the winner in this one. Brooklyn plays at one of the fastest paces in the league while Los Angeles is at one of the slowest. In the first meeting, the game was only 99 possessions, which fits more with how the Clips play. Brooklyn was able to dig out of an early hole with quality defense and an offensive barrage from the “Big Three.” The Nets have been doing a better job of taking care of the ball lately, which has the effect of making an already dangerous offense even more potent.

We’re in for a 3-point bonanza. The Clips and Nets are currently Nos. 1 and 2 in the Association in three point percentage with LA one percentage point ahead of Brooklyn. Brooklyn takes four more threes a game than Los Angeles, so the advantage may be in their favor slightly.

Even with Durant out, Kyrie Irving will keep the party going for Brooklyn. Irving didn’t have the greatest of games against the Lakers, but it didn’t matter much as the entire team played at an A+ level against the champs. Irving was sensational in the first matchup against the Clippers as he torched Reggie Jackson all game long. Patrick Beverley is back for the Clippers and will likely get the Irving assignment on defense. Pat Bev may trick y’all, but he’s still a capable player.

Winning games is great, and beating top tier competition is even better

Things like that bode well for a team still learning each other and its tendencies. Now that they’ve got a new player on the roster in Andre Roberson, they’ll be able to experiment some more as they keep working to improve the defense.

A healthy Kawhi Leonard is still one of the more difficult players in the league to deal with. The fun guy came back to action on Friday and had a good all around game with 29 points, five rebounds, and four assists in about 38 minutes. He essentially sealed the game for the Clips with two critical offensive rebounds on back-to-back possessions late to help run the clock and hold off a furious Jazz comeback.

He was named an All Star starter, and it was a well deserved honor for the former two time Finals MVP. Brooklyn will throw a series of defenders at him, including Bruce Brown. Brown has been starting for the past week and a half and has provided great spark and defensive presence in the lineup. As the Nets work their way back to full health, Brown will play an integral role in the success the team has going forward.

Tonight’s gonna be filled with reunions. DeAndre Jordan back in his old lob city stomping guards. Landry Shamet, too. Ty Lue and Irving from their championship Cavs days. And our old friend Kenny Atkinson is on the Clippers bench. Good times.

All season long we’ve talked about the Nets frontcourt challenges, and they were able to minimize that issue by going small the first time they saw the Clippers. I figure they go small again since they were able to make Serge Ibaka’s life incredibly difficult the first time they saw him earlier this month. The Nets hope to be back in Los Angeles this June and as they finish up their weekend in LA, tonight will give them another chance to see what works and what doesn’t against one of the top teams in the league.

Shamet offered his thoughts on how things are changing for the Nets.

“The big point was the Phoenix game. I think having a comeback like that with guys out, the comradery, guys feeling good about themselves, and feels good about each other, you started to feel things brewing a little bit,” Shamet said.

“In the locker room afterwards, the energy in shootaround, before the Lakers game, so it has a carryover effect. I think you kind of saw that a little bit with how we played against the Lakers. Our continuity and how we are playing together right now feels good. Winning takes care of a lot of that stuff but I think a win where you come back from down 24 like that with guys out on the road, that is important. I think every team needs a moment like that to start the clicking.”

Player to watch: Paul George

PG returned to the court after missing some time due to bone edema, which sounds painful as hell. He only played 26:41 and it’s gonna take some time for him to get back into tip-top shape. As it happens, George has been having one of the best seasons of his career and has a great chance of ending the year with a 50/40/90 shooting split. His playoff failures and him being a bit too chatty for people’s tastes always leads to him getting roasted on your timeline, but he really is a tremendous player! The jokes are hilarious tho.

James Harden as leading man is always a good thing. Harden was the best player on the court Thursday night against the Lakers and his continued excellence has the Nets dreaming big. Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer has more:

But Harden’s increased emphasis on playmaking shouldn’t overshadow his continued dominance as a scorer. One of the most underrated parts of Harden’s game is just how powerful he is. He’s only 6-foot-5, but he plays much bigger because of his strong frame (220 pounds) and long arms (6-foot-11 wingspan). Defenders bounce off him and can’t stop him from getting to his preferred spots on the floor. Harden has never had any difficulty creating shots for himself. Brooklyn has weaponized that ability in a new way. Instead of asking Harden to create tough shots against defenses geared up to stop him, they just rely on him to sprinkle in a few easy ones when the defense plays him for the pass.

With Harden running the show, the Nets offense has been able to generate so many excellent looks all over the court. He had a good game the first time out against LA, and as the Clips look to figure out who will draw the defensive assignment tonight, Harden will be able to dissect the defense and make life difficult. Another big showing here will put the NBA on (even more) notice.

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