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Nets get reinforcements as they take on Kings

Minnesota Timberwolves v Sacramento Kings Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

This is gonna sound bonkers considering the current circumstances, but there’s a decent team in there. The Brooklyn Nets were on the road to face the Eastern Conference leading, Miami Heat, on Saturday evening. They almost came all the way back from a 21 point second half deficit, but ultimately fell short by four point. The L was their eleventh in a row. Amazingly, they’re still holding on to a playoff spot. They just gotta hang on long enough until the big guns return. Yeah we know moral victories are for minor league coaches, but there is room for optimism.

The opponent tonight will be the Sacramento Kings. Alvin Gentry and friends are looking a bit different, but they’re trying to make it shake. They were on the road to face the Washington Wizards on Saturday night, and came away with a nice 13 point victory. The W was their second in a row and hey, maybe they can go on a nice little run in the second half.

Where to follow the game

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

Injuries

Joe Harris is out. Kevin Durant has been doing some on-court work recently and hopes to be back soon, but the team hasn’t given a timeline as to when he’ll be back. LaMarcus Aldridge has been out with an ankle sprain, but he’ll be back tonight. Nic Claxton is back tonight as well as he’s been out dealing with a tight left hamstring. Ben Simmons is working his way back but won’t be playing for a little while. His teammates, Andre Drummond and Seth Curry, are available. James Johnson suffered a right knee contusion on Saturday night and is questionable for tonight.

Terence Davis is out recovering from right wrist surgery. Jeremy Lamb is questionable with left ankle soreness.

The game

Sacramento won the first meeting on February 2.

You ever had an ex that tried to mess with you even after y’all broke up? That’s kinda what happened to the Nets after James Harden didn’t show up to Philadelphia to get his physical until mid Saturday afternoon. By the time it was done, the Nets vs. Heat game had already started so Andre Drummond and Seth Curry were ineligible to play. They’re here now and not a moment too soon.

In Curry, the Nets get another capable ballhandler and a +++++++ shooter. Without Joe Harris, the team’s three point shooting has taken a major hit, so having him will give the Nets offense a shot in the arm.

I was thinking about it during Saturday’s game, but is time to move Cam Thomas into the starting lineup? Over his last five games, the kid has averaged 23.2 points in 32 minutes a game on a .500/.355/.773 shooting split. One great thing about Killa Cam is he’s getting to the free throw line four times a game, which helps for a Nets team that hasn’t gotten much downhill pressure outside of Kyrie Irving and James Harden when he wasn’t tricking off games. His growth has been a bright spot in a sea of misery, and the more reps he gets, the better he plays. Nets fans are excited and with damn good reason.

With Curry onboard, that means the team can give Patty Mill a bit of a breather. Mills has been under 40 percent from the field in each of the last four games and although he’s struggled, he’s maintained his energy and optimism. For a team in a slump, you need someone to keep the spirits up and as one of the leaders on the team, Mills has been a source of support for everyone here.

White Donte in the building! Donte DiVincenzo was traded to Sacramento from the Milwaukee Bucks and made his debut with the team on Saturday in DC. He gives the Kings a plus perimeter defender and at only 25 years old, could be a good player to have on the team going forward.

In his press conference Saturday night, Kyrie Irving noted that he’s the only player that has to deal with COVID mandates restricting him from playing in NYC while (the few) unvaccinated players across the NBA can play here without any issues. And with that, say hello to new King and one of the few remaining unvaccinated players in the NBA, Justin Holiday! It’s a bad bit of fortune for the Nets, but very rare.

De’Aaron Fox will attack downhill early and often. The fifth year lefty is one of the best finishers at the rim in the NBA this year and will put a lot of pressure on the Nets guards. He’s shooting a career worst 26.3 percent from three point range this season, so the gameplan for Brooklyn will be to keep him stuck on the perimeter. Kessler Edwards has hit a bit of a rookie wall on offense, but he’s been working his butt off on defense and has been a positive on that side of the ball. Like Thomas, he has exceeded expectations this year and a strong week before the break will do wonders for his confidence.

Player to watch: Domantas Sabonis

An old face in a new place. After four good seasons and two All Star Game appearances with the Indiana Pacers, Sabonis was traded to the Kings in exchange for Buddy Hield and Tyrese Haliburton. The loss of Haliburton was a sad one for Kings fans as they grew to love him and his game as soon as he was drafter. For Kings management, there is a lot of pressure on them to finally get their stuff together. Over at Sactown Royalty, Leo Tochterman wrote:

Before even stepping on the court, Domantas Sabonis is one of the five to ten best players to ever put on a Sacramento Kings jersey. But, he is a challenging player to build your team around, especially when you already have another challenging pillar in De’Aron Fox. If Fox and Sabonis are locked in as long-term starters, then the other three players in the lineup have to be able to shoot and they have to be able to play defense, two traits that neither of the Kings’ franchise pillars have.

To make matters even more challenging, the Kings have to do build this winning roster in the two-plus years that Sabonis is under contract.

So far, he’s been fantastic as a King in his two games with his new club, averaging 19 points, almost 13 rebounds and six assists a night while shooting 63 percent from the field. If he keeps playing at this level, he’ll start to win Kings fans over.

We will get to see the new big man make his debut. Andre Drummond did a good job backing up Joel Embiid with the 76ers and figures to get plenty of opportunities to make it happen. Not to be outdone, the Nets will be buoyed by the returns of Aldridge and Claxton. With LMA, the Nets have another source of scoring and someone that can consistently hit elbow jumpers. With Clax, they have a big that can handle switching onto guards and wings on the perimeter. Steve Nash and the coaching staff have a lot of juggling to do to ensure everyone is able to contribute, but when you consider all the injury woes over the past month, you’ll live with having more options than less.

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