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Brunch and basketball: Nets come home to face Knicks at Barclays

Washington Wizards v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

They know most likely when I see em’ I’m a set up a beating. On Thursday night, the Brooklyn Nets went into enemy territory to take on James Harden and the Philadelphia 76ers. The Nets stomped a mudhole in the 76ers and walked it dry with a resounding 29 point victory. THAT’s how you properly open up a can of whoop ass.

The opponent today is a familiar one. Tom Thibodeau and the New York Knicks have had a disappointing season following a breakout 2020-2021 campaign. They’ve played better as of late, but the road to making the playoffs is a daunting one. They played the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night and had a chance to get their third straight win, but they tricked off a fourth quarter lead and wound up taking a tough loss.

Where to follow the game

ABC on TV. WFAN and ESPN Radio on radio. Brunch and hoops so we getting the show started after 1 PM.

Injuries

Joe Harris is out. Ben Simmons is doing the ramp up, but he’ll be out tonight. LaMarcus Aldridge has been out with a right hip injury and is out for at least another week. David Duke, Jr is out with a left ankle sprain. In New York City, you can be in the Barclays Center and other establishments if you are not COVID-19 vaccinated. However, you can not work in New York City if you are not COVID-19 vaccinated. And since Kyrie Irving is not and will not get COVID-19 vaccinated, he will not be working today. He’ll be back on the clock on Tuesday night against the Orlando Magic.

Irving did make his first appearance Saturday night at Barclays, watching Duke play in the ACC Tournament. The alma mater lost to Virginia Tech.

It was announced on Thursday that Cam Reddish will miss the remainder of the season after separating his right shoulder. He should be good to go for the 2022-2023 season. Nerlens Noel is out with a sore left foot. Derrick Rose had to undergo a procedure on his right ankle and will be out. Quentin Grimes is out with a right patella subluxation. Kemba Walker has been exiled from the team and he will no longer suit up for his hometown team. Obi Toppin didn’t play on Friday due to a strained left hamstring. He’s listed as questionable for today’s game.

The game

Brooklyn took game one in November and game two in February. The neighbors wrap things up in April at MSG.

The odds are in the Nets favor, but they can’t get complacent. They still got a lot of work to do.

What do we make of Julius Randle? He had the best season of his career in 2020-2021 and led the Knicks to their first playoff appearance since the Carmelo Anthony era. This year has been a major step back as he’s turning the ball over more and his three point percentage has dropped by nearly ten percentage points. Even with his struggles, Randle is still a bully on the court so the strategy for the Nets will be to goad him into contested, off balance jumpers.

With no LMA for the next week, we’ll get some more Nic Claxton playing time. Clax played 22 minutes on Thursday, and acquitted himself quite well. He’s someone that’s integral to Brooklyn’s future, so getting him involved and playing a decent amount of minutes will help him and the team now and in the future. He can provide some rim protection and has a lot of athleticism, which always comes in handy.

Clax and Andre Drummond will be doing battle with Mitchell Robinson on the inside. When Robinson is playing well, he can finish above the rim (77 percent on shots inside of three feet) and is one of the best shot blockers in the league (sixth in blocks per game). For all of his talents, it feels like he hasn’t put it all together yet.

The Knicks allow 18 open (defined as being six feet or further from the shooter) three pointers per game, sixth highest in the NBA this season. That spells danger against the combo of Seth Curry and Mills. March has been a godsend for Mills as he’s regained his three point shot. He’s shooting 59 percent from downtown in five games this month and he’s back in a bench role where he won’t have to play heavy minutes and create offense for his teammates. Curry has fit in Brooklyn like a glove and is shooting 45 percent from deep since coming over from the Sixers.

Generally speaking, Tom Thibodeau loves playing veteran players. When your team is competing for a title, that’s fine enough. However, when the season is lost and you need to figure out which youngster is a part of your future, you’ve got a problem. Over at Posting and Toasting, chapuluna sorted through the mess of the team’s strategy and wrote:

It’s easy to call for the firing, but it’s equally simple to take five seconds of pause, to look at that potential scenario, and to find yourself looking at a barebones and lost organization going nowhere. And given the fluctuating set of targets of the FO, it’s not that anybody will be truly confident in getting on board and buying whatever they’d be selling.

There must be a middle ground solution, and everybody should benefit from it. The FO must look after the future of the franchise—thus favoring the pivot to a younger roster/see-what-we-got approach—and the HC must make the most of his pieces—which at this point through the season is clearly not heavily using veterans. This team is not going to contend this season, nor next season, nor the one after that one either. That doesn’t mean both the brass and the coach can’t work together, stay put, build on the current foundation of young players and solid veterans (Mitch if he re-signs and Randle, that’s it), and ultimately fight for greater things.

Thibs can get started by playing Immanuel Quickley more at point guard instead of relying on Alec Burks. Burks has played two guard for most of his career, but has been getting a lot of run at the point this year. Quickley is someone that might have a big role in the Knicks’ future plans, and it’s up to Thibodeau to figure that out now. Same goes for Miles McBride and Grimes when he returns. With the Knicks unlikely to make it up to tenth place and the play in, now’s as good a time as any to start planning for the future.

With Irving watching on the bench, Goran Dragic will likely move back into the starting five. Dragic is a good floor general and will create good looks for his teammates. If the game against the Miami Heat is any indication, he’ll play around 28 minutes today.

Player to watch: RJ Barrett

Out here serving, disturbing the peace. Since coming back from his ankle sprain, Barrett has averaged around 27 points, seven rebounds, and five assists a night on a .422/.326/.726 shooting split. He’s attacking a lot more and has doubled his free throw attempts since the All Star break, getting to the charity stripe nine times a night.

Everyone on the Nets was ready to scrap it out on Thursday night, with Kevin Durant leading the way

You love the energy, especially when your superstar is out there bringing it. Durant spoke about the crowd in his postgame Thursday night, with special mention to the Nets fans that pulled up to Philly:

“Our fans traveled. It was pretty remarkable to see Brooklyn fans because the label on us is that we don’t have any fans. So hear them in a huge arena like this, fighting against another energetic crowd, like the Sixers fans. I’m starting to see it more and more. last couple of years since I’ve been here. that fans are starting to travel. We’re going to need that going forward.”

That’s love. The crowd will inevitably be a point of discussion today so it’s up for the Nets fans to make some noise and for KD and the players to give them a lot to cheer for. Durant can do everything on a basketball court and when he’s as locked in as he was on Thursday, he takes the Nets from difficult to beat to impossible.

From the Vault

On Friday night, Gregg Popovich surpassed Don Nelson and is now the all time leader in wins. Both teams faced Pop and the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals. We know how it went

More reading: Posting and Toasting

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