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Nets come home to face Thunder without resting KD and Patty

Oklahoma City Thunder v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Harrison Barden/Getty Images

A masterclass. To put it mildly, the Brooklyn Nets have looked like junk for the past few weeks. And along with that, they hadn’t beaten one of the elite teams all season. So when they went into Wednesday night’s tilt with the Chicago Bulls, they had a lot to prove. So what did they do? They opened up a can of whoop ass and served it to the Bulls. If you were looking for a statement, they gave it to you.

The opponent tonight will be the Oklahoma City Thunder. The rebuild is moving along and while the wins aren’t there, the progress is. They lost a close one to the Washington Wizards in DC on Tuesday night. The L was their fifth in a row.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN on radio. Later than usual tip so we getting started after 8:30 PM.

Injuries

Joe Harris is out. Nic Claxton will sit with left hamstring tightness last night. LaMarcus Aldridge is still dealing with right foot soreness. So he’s out tonight. Then, there’s the rest contingent: Steve Nash will rest Kevin Durant and Patty Mills. Since we’re at home, Kyrie Irving is also out. James Harden and the team’s four rookies are all available, as are Blake Griffin, Bruce Brown, DeAndre’ Bembry and Paul Millsap.

Isaiah Roby and Kenrich Williams are in COVID protocols.

The game

Brooklyn won the first meeting in November.

Having Kyrie Irving back solves so much. Although he only scored nine points and went 4-10 from the field in 25 minutes, just having another plus shooter on the court made a world of difference for Brooklyn. No way you can load up on the other stars when you have a third 30+ point scorer who commands so much attention. Defenders have to make tough choices every single possession against a fully staffed Nets team.

The team also went with another experiment last night as they started Kessler Edwards and Dayron Sharpe. Edwards gave the Nets another plus shooter, made some wonderful hustle plays, and did a respectable job when guarding Zach Lavine and DeMar DeRozan. As for Sharpe, he had the best game of his young career as he scored 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 22 minutes. Sharpe has a soft touch around the rim and looked pretty comfortable as a pick-and-roll partner with James Harden. The rookies provide so much energy for the Nets and for a team that’s hoping to make it to the playoffs in one piece, having youngsters that provide them and the fans with energy and a spark is always a good thing.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has more responsibilities on his shoulders, but has seen his shooting efficiency dip as a result. Although SGA is top 20 in scoring and leads the league in drives to the rim per game, his field goal and three point percentages have dipped by over 10 points each from last season to this one. It could be a result of him taking a lot more three pointers than we’re used to, so that’s something OKC will have to figure out as they continue building towards the future. The Nets will do their best to stay in front of SGA and make things difficult for him as he attacks the basket.

Efficiency Man was in full effect last night. Kevin Durant only took ten shots, but it didn’t matter as he scored a game high 27 points and handed out nine assists. The Bulls tried doubling him in the post and he made them pay the price by finding open shooters from three. KD only needed to play 30 minutes last night, and with Steve Nash looking for a chance to give him some time off, maybe tonight is the night. Lu Dort figures to get the assignment against the former Thunder legend if he suits up.

Player to watch: Josh Giddey

OKC has another good young player to build around. Josh Giddey set a record for being the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double earlier in the year and has been solid thus far. Over his last four games, Giddey is averaging around 13 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists on a 50/41/100 shooting split. He gives OKC another solid ballhandler and someone that can orchestrate the offense. The Thunder have a bright future and Giddey figures to be a huge part of it.

As it so happens, today is the one-year anniversary of the trade that brought James Harden to Brooklyn. Harden brought it in style with an all around dominant game on national TV. He had a season high 16 assists (to only two turnovers), had the Nets getting into the offense early, and knocked down five three pointers. He even made a catch and shoot three, which is something he doesn’t do as much these days. Harden got into such a wonderful rhythm with Sharpe and if that relationship continues to blossom, it will open up even more good options for the Nets. When Harden is assertive, playing with pace, and applying constant pressure, he becomes one of the most difficult players in the league to defend. It’s been a great year for Harden in Brooklyn and the team hopes he has even more showcase performances coming up.

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