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Nets host Pelicans before hitting road

New Orleans Pelicans v Orlando Magic Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Nothing doing this time. The Brooklyn Nets flew into town on Thursday morning to play the Oklahoma City Thunder, but they weren’t able to get the W as the Thunder came away with the win. If you’re looking for any solace for Brooklyn, they got to stay in the same time zone for a few days. It’s the small things in life that get you through.

The opponent tonight will be the New Orleans Pelicans. It’s been a rocky year for first year head coach, Willie Green, but he’s doing his best to make it work and the team is starting to respond. The team was at home on Thursday night and demolished the Los Angeles Clippers on the way to a good win.

Where to follow the game

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

Injuries

Joe Harris is out. LaMarcus Aldridge is out. Nic Claxton might be back tonight. We’ll see Kyrie Irving again on Monday afternoon.

Zion Williamson is out indefinitely and it looks like we won’t be seeing him at all this year. Kira Lewis, Jr is out with a right knee ACL/MCL sprain.

The game

Brooklyn won the first meeting in November.

Here’s something interesting from friend of the site, Nekias Duncan:

Without Williamson and due to their slow start, we all thought the Pelicans would fall off the face of the Earth, however the team has fought through the adversity. Here’s Oleh Kosel of The Bird Writes:

Following a 1-12 start out of the gates, the Pelicans didn’t come apart at the seams. The team wasn’t losing games consistently by double digits. The players always stayed committed to the cause by pushing through adversity. They showed genuine belief in each other and the coaching staff.

It’s a great sign for the team going forward that they’ve been able to figure some things out.

It’s hard to maintain a rhythm when you don’t play anymore, but you have to stay ready regardless. Paul Millsap hadn’t seen the court since December 27 against the Clippers, but he was out there for 19 minutes of game action, and looked pretty good! He grabbed ten rebounds, set some good screens, and gave the Nets another capable big man to deploy. When everyone gets back, he’ll more than likely fall out of the rotation again, but Steve Nash and the coaching staff know they can turn to him in a moment of need.

Speaking of the Nets bigs’, they’ll be dealing with familiar foe, Jonas Valanciunas. JV has been quite good and is shooting a rather remarkable 43.5 percent from 3-point range. He’s still a bear on the inside and is fourth in the NBA in rebounding this season. The Nets have struggled on the boards at times this year, so the rest of the team will need to help the bigs out on the boards. Assuming Claxton sits, Day’Ron Sharpe will start. Sharpe didn’t have a great game on Thursday, but he has looked great in his last few games and he’ll need to be extra physical to combat Valanciunas ... without fouling out.

The Pelicans have been a bit loose when it comes to taking care of the ball, but the Nets are in the bottom third of forcing turnovers so that weakness may not be as fatal tonight as it normally would.

Patty Mills got his first rest day of the season on Thursday, and now that he’s back, should help space things out for Brooklyn. When we last saw him, he knocked down open shot after open shot as he torched the Bulls for 21 points (with six three pointers) off the bench in 21 minutes. He’s starting so the calculus will be different, but if he finds himself open like he was on Wednesday, watch out.

Herbert Jones has gotten lots of love, and it’s easy to see why. The rookie has earned rave reviews for his defense and has been a good boost to the team.

After the game on Thursday, James Harden mentioned the team got back in the NYC area at 5 AM and he got to bed at 7:30 AM. That makes for a practically impossible task to try and win a game on such a busted sleep schedule, but that’s the life when everything is in flux thanks to COVID. With a normal sleep pattern, Harden will look to put a great game together. He scored 39 points and made six threes the first time these clubs faced off, including a catch-and-shoot dagger in the final seconds. When his shot is there and he’s combining it by constantly driving to the basket and wreaking havoc, it gives the home Nets another gear they can reach. With Mills back, he’ll have an ace three point shooter to feed whenever defenses pay him too much attention.

Player to watch: Brandon Ingram

After a bumpy start to the season, BI is getting into a groove. Over his last four games, he’s been averaging around 28/6/6 on a .542/.529/.889 shooting split in 35 minutes a night. Ingram is one of the most important players on the Pelicans going forward and his growth will help determine what path they take. His playmaking has gotten better as his career has progressed and as he continues to fill out his game, he has room to get even better.

Welcome back, Efficiency Man! Kevin Durant got Thursday night off after his masterclass against the Bulls on Wednesday evening. The night off could do him some good as he’s one of the league leaders in minutes and as the leading scorer in the sport, has massive responsibilities on his shoulders. When he first saw the Pelicans, he worked them to the tune of 28/8/7 on 65 percent shooting from the field. He should be feeling refreshed and now that the schedule is out of its wild patch, he and the rest of the Nets can get into a nice groove as they head into the All Star break. KD just has to cut down on the cussing in post game press conference since the league wants to keep it PG. Family friendly and all that shit.

From the Vault

Shouts to Cool J.

More reading: The Bird Writes