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Nets ring in 2022 at Barclays vs. Clippers

LA Clippers v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to the new year! 2021 sucked for a million different reasons so we’re all hoping things start looking up this time around. For the Brooklyn Nets, they enter the new year atop the Eastern Conference and on the road back to full strength. They played a chippy game on Thursday night against the Philadelphia 76ers, but Philly was able to hang on late and hand the Nets a home loss. Gotta get back on the map to start the new year off right.

Ringing in the New Year with us will be the Los Angeles Clippers. Tyronn Lue’s club has been ransacked by injuries, but they’re still in playoff contention. They spent New Year’s Eve in Toronto last night and lost a close one to the Raptors.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN on radio. Tip after 7:30.

Injuries

Kessler Edwards is out of health and safety protocols, the last of 10 Nets to clear. Dayron Sharpe is getting his conditioning back after his stint in protocols. Joe Harris is out.

Paul George is out with his elbow injury. Kawhi Leonard is out with his knee injury. Nicolas Batum and Isaiah Hartenstein are out with ankle injuries. Brandon Boston, Ivica Zubac, and Jay Scrubb are in COVID protocols as is coach Ty Lue.

The game

The Nets won the first game on Monday in L.A.

Opportunity comes knocking. James Ennis was with the Nets for ten days, but the team didn’t bring him back for another ten, so he signed with the Clippers for a ten day stint. He hasn’t appeared in a gem for LA yet, but being on a roster is always a good thing for a vet like him.

It was likely a result of having to tussle with Joel Embiid, but Steve Nash and the coaching staff did something pretty interesting on Thursday night. They rolled out a double big lineup of LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Claxton throughout the night, and both of them played pretty well. They even went to it in the fourth quarter, although the 76ers were able to take advantage of it as they came away with the win. Against elite big men like Embiid or Nikola Jokic, could this be something the Nets try more often?

The Clips may not be primed for a deep playoff run this year, but they have a lot to look forward to as their youngsters continue to develop. Josh Sexton of Clips Nation wrote:

Although the chances of this team being ready for a deep playoff run look more unlikely than at the start of the year, this franchise should take pride in the way it continues to harness the spirit around its squad. It’s unlikely to be the young guys who make a telling impact on the team’s win percentage or eventual playoff seeding, but they have the chance to provide a positive boost which can make our veteran squad feel and look young again.

Marcus Morris will have to do more now that PG is out. He’s led the team in scoring in each game since he’s been back and scored 20 points last night in Toronto. Morris is a solid veteran hand and for a young team like this, he serves as a good example of how to succeed and adjust to what your team needs.

Last night, it was reported the New York Liberty will be hiring Sandy Brondello to be the team’s new head coach. It’ll be interesting to see how she works with this roster going forward. Free agency in the W begins in two weeks so the Liberty will have to figure out what direction they’ll be going in soon.

Usually, 33 points on super efficient shooting would be one of the best games of your career. However, when you’re Kevin Durant, it just means you’re finding your rhythm and working to get back to your usual MVP level. After Thursday’s game, KD noted he felt good but had room to get better. It’s a great sign for the Nets that he picked up right where he left off and exciting when you realize he has even better performances coming up.

The Nets will try to control the boards once again. They won the rebound battle on Monday night in LA and on the season, the Clippers have been one of the weakest rebounding teams in the Association. The Nets will look to speed them up and take advantage of LA’s tired legs as they look to control the game the same way they did Monday.

Player to watch: Terance Mann

Of all the youngsters on the Clips, Mann might be the most integral to their future success. He plays good defense, is a capable three point shooter, and has been able to handle increased offensive responsibility each season he’s been in the league. At 25 years old, he has room to get better and will be an important member of the team going forward.

If there’s anything you can really knock about James Harden’s game, it’s the turnover totals. He coughed it up six times against the Sixers and leads the NBA at 4.9 a night. Despite that, he’s been rolling downhill at every turn as of late. When Harden is attacking the basket, he adds so many different dimensions to the Nets offense and forces the defense into difficult choices. He looks like he’s got his groove back and it will push the Nets to higher heights.

From the Vault

“Have you watched him play? He’s a master. He can score 60 percent, 70 percent of his shots if you don’t guard him.”

More reading: Clips Nation