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Nets open up road trip against Warriors in primetime

SFChronicleSports Carlos Avila Gonzalez/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Scheduled loss, but some good things to build towards. The Brooklyn Nets played night two of a back-to-back and game three in four nights on Wednesday against the Denver Nuggets. Brooklyn had a chance to steal it late, but some ill timed missed free throws doomed their chances and they took their third straight loss. With the Eastern Conference jumbled up, things are getting tight. Luckily for the Nets, they got out of town before the snow hit.

The opponent will be the Golden State Warriors. The Dubs are back in familiar territory as they’re near the top of the league and will be hell on Earth come playoff time. They played the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday night and came away with an impressive nine point win. The win was their fourth in a row.

Where to follow the game

ABC on TV. WFAN on radio. Primetime affair so the party’s getting started after 8:30 p.m.

Injuries

Kevin Durant will be reevaluated next week, but is out tonight. Joe Harris is out. DayRon Sharpe missed Wednesday’s game with a non-COVID illness. No word on if he’ll be playing. Nic Claxton got a night off as he recently returned from his hamstring injury. He’ll be back. James Harden sat on Wednesday as well with what was termed left hamstring tightness. He’s good to go with the hamstring but now has right hand issues and is questionable. Kyrie Irving is eligible to play but a member of San Francisco’s board of supervisors says he shouldn’t be. The game will be the first of five straight Irving can play.

Draymond Green is out with a back injury. Andre Iguodala is out with a left hip injury. Nemanja Bjelica is out with back spasms. James Wiseman is recovering from a right knee injury and won’t be on the court.

The game

Golden State won the first game back in November.

The backpack jokes are hilarious, but Draymond Green is such an integral part of the Warriors attack and doesn’t get nearly the amount of love that he deserves. Green quarterbacks both sides of the ball and takes the Warriors from a good team to title favorites. They're going to need him back at full strength if they want to capture another championship. He also got a new job and we’re all excited to see how he continues to grow in the analysis game.

In surprising news, BIG WIGG is headed to the All Star Game! Andrew Wiggins has been having the best season of his career and was rewarded with a starting nod to the game in Cleveland. He’s averaging 18 points a night on a .483/.412/.662 shooting split for the season. However, with Green’s absence, his game has (understandably) suffered some this month. Over his last 12 games, Wigg is only averaging 15.6 points a night on a .458/.353/.583 shooting split in 31 minutes a night. He’s in an environment surrounded by excellent players and doesn’t have the burden of having to be the leading player for the franchise. Everything worked out for him and the team.

Having Nic Claxton back for this one will be huge for the Nets. Brooklyn got burned time after time defending the Warriors in pick and roll coverage the first matchup, and LaMarcus Aldridge playing in drop coverage is an invitation for a beatdown. With Clax, he can switch onto Warriors guards on the perimeter and handle the assignment. Clax should also help on the boards, a battle the Nets lost by 15 in the first meeting against the Warriors.

For a title contending team, the Warriors are surprisingly sloppy with the ball. They are 29th in turnover rate and 21st in opponent’s points off of turnovers. The Nets will have opportunities to cash in on the fastbreak, but will have to be extra, extra careful in taking care of the ball. If they get sloppy, the Warriors can go on a run that will knock them out.

Both squads’ kids will get some run tonight. On the BK side, Cam Thomas provided some scoring punch and gives Brooklyn another player that can attack downhill and get their own shot. Kessler Edwards will start again and his 39 percent from three point range has helped open things up for the Nets offense. For G-State, Jonathan Kuminga has been a revelation as his energy and athleticism have sparked the Warriors off the bench. With superstars on both teams, the youngsters will get an early taste of intense playoff competition this spring, which will do wonders for their own future development.

We’ve made it this far and we haven’t even talked about one of the MVP favorites yet! Steph Curry has put together another banner season and is adding on to his record breaking three point shooting. He’s been in a slump this month as he’s only averaged 21 points on a .376/.314/.879 split. He’s been dealing with a right hand issue this month, which thankfully didn’t turn into a major injury. Practically every shot he takes is a good one and it doesn’t take much to get him on a hot streak. The Nets will need to play their sharpest, most disciplined game on defense if they want to slow him down.

James Harden is back after getting Wednesday night off. He played a great game against the Lakers and one thing that stood out compared to his game on Sunday against the Timberwolves was that he was attacking the basket early and often. Too often, Harden has been stuck trying to figure out whether he should distribute or take over with his shot. With Durant on the mend, he should look to score as much as humanly possible. Once he’s on a roll, defenses will have to put even more emphasis on him, which would then create cleaner looks for his teammates. Can’t win when you play passively.

Player to watch: Klay Thompson

Yay! After two seasons away as he dealt with some severe injuries, Klay Thompson is back and looking good. He doesn’t play back to backs right now and is on the court for around 22 minutes a night, but he’s made some great plays since he’s been back and the more he plays, the better he will look. There isn’t too much pressure on him to produce immediately as Jordan Poole has been excellent all season long and is now a solid sixth man. Thompson’s return allows the Warriors offense to be even more spry and dangerous. Klay is one of the good guys and most fun interviews and personalities in the sport and everything is better with him back.

Road game means the Warriors will be seeing their old nemesis, Kyrie Irving. Irving has been off since Sunday, but he’s back now so we roll from here. He’s getting his groove back and spoke about it following Sunday’s game against the Timberwolves:

“I feel like I’m in a rhythm shape-wise, being able to play both ends of the ball, and in terms of getting to my spots and knowing down some easy shots. And then, game to game just making adjustments.

One thing to keep an eye on is Irving’s free throw attempts. He’s only getting there two times a night, which is on the low side for such a magnificent foul shooter. He’s always been a terrific finisher at the cup, and he’s taken it to another level this year as he’s shooting a career best 75 percent on shots inside of three feet. He’s gotten to the rim at the lowest rate of his career thus far, and it ties back into the point he made about regaining his rhythm. Since Green has been out, the Warriors bigs are Kevon Looney, Otto Porter, Jr and Bjelica. Look for the Nets to make it a point to attack downhill and try to get the Warriors in foul trouble.

From the Vault

Happy belated to Ms. Anita Baker

And with it being Conference Championship weekend, let’s take it back to one of the best, most physical NFC Championship games we’ve ever seen

More reading: Golden State of Mind