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Blake Griffin making Nets debut as Brooklyn hosts Washington

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Utah Jazz v Washington Wizards Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Streaks gotta end at some point. On Friday night, the Orlando Magic brought their nine-game losing streak to the Brooklyn Nets, who were riding a six-game winning streak and eight straight road winning streak. The Magic were able to end all the streaks in question and beat the Nets. The Nets don’t have much time to linger on this, which we’ll get into in a bit.

The opponent tonight will be the Washington Wizards. Scott Brooks’ guys are on the outside looking in of the playoff picture, but they might be able to sneak in. They put together an incredibly impressive win against the top seeded Utah Jazz on Thursday night. The win snapped their five-game losing streak.

Where to follow the game

YES Network for us, NBATV for the out of towners. Tip off after 7 PM.

Injuries

Kevin Durant and Spencer Dinwiddie are out. With Blake Griffin and Jeff Green moved from “probable” to “available,” this is the Nets cleanest injury report in a while. More on Griffin later, too.

Davis Bertans, Ish Smith and Thomas Bryant are out.

The game

Washington won the first game in early January and second one in late January. Barring a playoff matchup, this is the last time the two teams will see each other this season.

Tune into NBATV at 6 PM as our brother Pooch will be on talking about the Nets and NBA at large. And when you’re done, sign up for the newsletter at The Association!

The Wizards will be getting comfortable for the next few days. They have a two-game set at MSG against the Knicks after this.

As for the Nets, they’re hitting the road when this game ends. They’ve got a three-game road trip that will take them to Portland, Utah (a back-to-back) and Detroit. No rest when you’re trying to reach the top. Moreover, they arrived back at Newark Airport from Orlando at 2:50 Saturday, meaning they probably got to bed around 4 a.m. Such is the compressed, pandemic-driven NBA schedule.

Speaking of weary, James Harden looked a bit gassed in Orlando. He didn’t have a good game on Friday after his tour de force on Wednesday and with an arduous back-to-back awaiting the Nets this week, tonight would be a good night to keep his minutes down if the Nets were inclined to do so. The backcourt matchup features another All Star in Bradley Beal so Brooklyn may need Harden out there for his usual run.

With Beal, the injuries affecting the Wizards have dampened what’s been a terrific individual season. Matt Modderno of Bullets Forever talked about how the team’s future:

I think they think this is all COVID’s fault and with time to gel next year, another high pick, more maturation, a few more free agents, and a healthy Thomas Bryant, Washington looks competitive again. All of those things are probably at least partly true but you still have a ceiling on what this group can accomplish.

They just need to decide what they want. If they want a team where if everything goes right could maybe get to like a 6 or 7 seed, great, they probably have a realistic path to get there. If they want to even get to an Eastern Conference Finals, this isn’t the core to do it, I don’t think.

They’re gonna have to surround Beal with the right players so the team can go on a run one of these days.

If the first two games were any indication, this one’s gonna be a shootout. Both teams currently rank in the bottom third in defensive efficiency for the season and the Nets are second to last in forcing opponent turnovers while the Wiz are last in blocks. The Wiz allow the fourth highest 3-point percentage in the NBA and the Nets are second in three point percentage. Over under 250 total points scored tonight?

So what can Blake Griffin bring to the table? He had his worst season as a professional this year in Detroit and comes to Brooklyn with a lot to prove. He’s still a good passer with excellent court vision and that could unlock some new things in the Nets offense. The big question a lot of us have is what will happen with Nicolas Claxton’s playing time as he’s been on a heck of a roll over the past few weeks.

Griffin will tell you, as he told Bar Stool Sports this week, that his streak without dunking is only 19 games since he missed a full year without throwing it down. What to expect in that aspect of his game? The Nets performance team has been working with him since his arrival on March 8, hoping in Steve Nash’s words, to improve “physical deficiencies” in his left knee. We’ll see how that worked out.

On Sunday afternoon, the Nets tweeted out video of Griffin talking about his debut...

Player to watch: Russell Westbrook (other than Blake Griffin)

Russ is in an interesting spot. He’s averaging close to a triple-double on the season, which looks good. However, his shooting splits are a worrisome .441/.321/.598. That 59.8 percent is the worst he’s shot at the free throw line in his career. Not to be outdone, he’s turning the ball over at the highest rate of his career as well. To be fair to Russ, it’s his first year on a new team in a shortened season and his team in particular got ransacked by COVID-19, so everything is off kilter. However, I do wonder if Russ will be able to get back to something close to his MVP levels. He’s still my guy tho.

Kyrie Irving came back with a bang on Friday night. Irving missed Indiana due to a groin injury but returned in Orlando with a season high 43 points. Having Irving back at full strength will make life easier for Harden and lessen some of the work he has to do. The Wizards struggle defending the perimeter

And in case you forgot what a healthy Blake Griffin can do, here’s a reminder...

From the Vault

Verzuz made a trip to Staten Island last night, so wake up and start your day with Raekwon and Ghostface Killah!

More reading: Bullets Forever