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Nets switch coasts, face Clippers

Brooklyn Nets v LA Clippers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

Actually, that was Brooklyn’s best win of the season. The Nets are coming off a thorough clock-cleaning of the Knicks on Wednesday night, making that eight straight victories vs. their crosstown rival.

The defense and offense were equally crisp, and after jumping out to a 24-8 lead, Brooklyn was never seriously threatened. Kevin Durant finished with a hearty 29-12-12 line, consistently torching single coverage and manipulating double coverage. Other highlights included Seth Curry bouncing back with six three-pointers, and Edmund Sumner with 19 more impressive minutes of play.

Sumner’s drives to the rim often look wild, his long limbs moving in all directions, perhaps faster than his mind can keep up with. But for every turnover, or desperate attempt thrown off the backboard, there have been three forays that end with a Brooklyn bucket. Sumner is no longer just making shots from difficult angles, but is starting to genuinely manipulate defenses into easier looks around the rim:

And the best part is, he doesn’t quit attacking. Brooklyn’s offense needs the unpredictability he brings. Sumner’s next chance to continue his string of solid performances will come on Saturday night, when the Nets travel to Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon to face their West Coast soulmate, the Clippers.

As Zach Lowe wrote this week of Sumner...

He has waited a long time for this chance after missing last season with an Achilles tear, and he’s grasping it without any fear. He does not care if he just air-balled a wide-open corner 3 by 2 feet — a thing that happened in the Nets’ ecstatic trouncing of the New York Knicks on Wednesday. He’ll jack the next one when Kevin Durant — probably surrounded by five defenders — kicks it to him. Sumner flings his body into thickets of defenders, and uncorks twisting, leaning layups that somehow sneak through all those arms.

Where to follow the game

It’s all local this time, YES Network (and the YES App) telecasting the game. WFAN-FM has the radio call, and tip-off is scheduled for just past 4:00 p.m. from Arena.


While The Athletic’s Alex Schiffer reported T.J. Warren will soon start participating in some practice drills, he remains out for the foreseeable future. As does Kyrie Irving, despite hints at a potential return. Yuta Watanabe’s ankle sprain, meanwhile. will keep him out at least through Brooklyn’s weekend back-to-back vs. the LA teams.

The Clippers’ injury report is down to just one, a welcome sight for a team riddled by health issues in the recent past. Unfortunately, that one is Kawhi Leonard, whose ACL recovery has not been smooth one. He’s played just 42 total minutes this season, and will miss Saturday’s contest vs. the Nets.

The game

The Clippers are coming off a win vs. the Lakers, but who isn’t these days? LA’s less popular squad has struggled to start the season, at least compared to their lofty expectations. They will go as far as Kawhi Leonard and Paul George can take them, but the former of that duo can’t quite make it onto the court yet. Thus, the team has a negative net rating, and the second-worst offense in the league, per

Exposed is an obvious, but potentially fatal flaw of the roster: The offense doesn’t make sense without a healthy Kawhi. The ball sticks (3rd-last in assist rate), they don’t get to the line (7th-worst FT rate), and they continually lose the possession battle because the Clips turn the ball over and don’t get offensive rebounds. It’s a tough combination that all adds up to the NBA’s 29th-ranked offense. No, they shouldn’t be that putrid without Kawhi, but his absence certainly doesn’t help.

Thankfully for Ballmer’s Boys, it’s the inverse story on defense. has them at with the third-best defensive rating on the young season, led by some stout rim protection whether they’re playing big, with Ivica Zubac, or small, without him. Zubac is a brick wall inside, facing 19 shots a game and allowing them to go in at just a 41% rate. Meanwhile, their big wings like Paul George and Robert Covington, even smaller guys like Norman Powell, have been excellent coming over and contesting shots in help. How that plays against a Nets team that, on this hot streak, has been manufacturing more shots inside, we’ll see. But that’s certainly the area of the court to look out for.

Player to Watch

That would be George, of course. It is a knock on him that the Clippers offense as a whole isn’t more productive, as his superstar output of 25 with five assists a night isn’t leading to solid team offense. He’s still doing his best Durant impression, though, starting out the season scorching hot from the mid-range area. This about sums it up:

And the man with two first names is heating up after a start to the season that was merely good. His averages have all risen over the past six games, where the Clips are 5-1, as he’s been putting up 30-5-5 with two steals a game, on 55% from the floor and 43% from three. Anyway you slice it, PG is still rated R, and it’d be surprising if Brooklyn doesn’t throw consistent double teams at him if/once he gets going. Either way, I’d be wary about guarding him with Royce O’Neale, considering George’s penchant for just shooting over the top of small defenders. Look for Nic Claxton and Kevin Durant to defend the one-on-one possessions.

From the Vault

The 2016-17 season was a forgettable one for Brooklyn, but a memorable one for this matchup. First, the Lob City Clippers destroyed Brooklyn in their own house by a score of 127-95 that honestly made it sound closer than it was. Future Nets Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan each threw down monster dunks, including Jordan postering Justin Hamilton. Remember him?

The second matchup, though, was a double-OT thriller in which Sean Kilpatrick popped off for 38 and 14 rebounds, leading Brooklyn to a victory, maybe their most significant win of that season, over the vaunted Lob City Clippers. Time flies.

For further reading, head to our sister site, Clips Nation.