If you thought the Brooklyn Nets would eventually snap the Los Angeles Lakers’ record 33 game winning streak, welcome back to reality. On Wednesday night, the Nets hit the road for the first night of a three game road trip. The Chicago Bulls played host to the Nets and were looking to bounce back after two rough losses against the Cleveland Cavaliers. They were able to do that and more as they snapped the Nets’ 12 game winning streak. It was bound to end at some point, so the Nets will look to get back on the good foot quick.
Joining the Friday night fun will be the New Orleans Pelicans. Willie Green and company have exceeded expectations and have placed themselves in the contenders bracket. They took on the Houston Rockets and won to improve their record to 24-14. They’re only one game behind of the Denver Nuggets and Memphis Grizzlies for best in the West. Willie Green and company will be a force to be reckoned with for a long time.
Where to follow the game
YES Network for the locals, ESPN for the out-of-towners. WFAN on radio. Tip after 7:30.
TJ Warren left Wednesday’s game with a right rib contusion. He’s listed as questionable.
Brandon Ingram is making progress, but is out with a left toe contusion. Larry Nance, Jr is questionable with right shoulder soreness. EJ Liddell is out with a right knee injury. Willy Hernangomez is questionable with a left ankle sprain. Zion Williamson is out with a right hamstring strain.
New Orleans won the first meeting on Opening Night.
We won’t be seeing Zion on the court unfortunately, which is a bummer. The Pelicans have enough on the roster to work with to withstand the loss of their All Star for the next few weeks. In the meantime...
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN... ZION WILLIAMSON. pic.twitter.com/MhjV7Zpl0R— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) December 10, 2022
The first day back at work after a sick day is always rough. It takes you time to get back in to your routine, regain your balance, and work like you usually do. For Royce O’Neale, his first day back at the office was an especially rough one. He went 0-9 from the field, 0-8 from three and of those eight 3-point misses, just about all of them were wide open. Shooters have to keep shooting and if he's open, he needs to keep firing. The coaching staff and his teammates haven’t lost confidence in him, so look for him to bounce back tonight.
Speaking of 3-point shooting, we’ll be seeing two teams that are in the bottom tier of threes attempted. The Pelicans are 25th in threes per game while the Nets are 27th. That hasn’t slowed either team down as they’re both top ten in offensive efficiency (Brooklyn at No. 4 with New Orleans at No. 7). The best offenses utilize the whole court and make things happen in a variety of ways.
I love a great graphic, and this is a great graphic
Top shot maker by zone. pic.twitter.com/0bYHK0dvu5— Todd Whitehead (@CrumpledJumper) January 5, 2023
I just love that the entire midrange area is a Kevin Durant photo gallery. KD will look to keep the good times going this evening. He scored 44 points on Wednesday on just 22 field goal attempts as he carved up the Bulls defense. The Bulls threw their fair share of double teams at KD, but he made sure to make the right play and keep the offense moving. With no Ingram, the Pelicans are without one rangy defender that can hassle Durant. That will leave the majority of the assignment to second year dynamo, Herbert Jones. Injuries have derailed Jones some this season, but he has all the talent in the world and is one of the rangiest defenders in the game.
Nic Claxton will have a battle on the inside tonight. Jonas Valanciunas has been a Nets nemesis for years and is handling business in his 28 minutes a night. The Nets struggled defending Nikola Vucevic in the first half of Wednesday’s game, but started to slow the big guy down after halftime. JV is more of a bruiser than Vucevic and is one of the league leaders in rebounding. The Nets lost the rebound battle by 12 to the Bulls on Wednesday, and they’ll need to be a lot better tonight if they want to get the win. The team’s resurgence is tied in part to their work on the boards, and tonight will be a great test of those improvements.
Possessions will be a bit more valuable tonight. The Pels are third in points off of turnovers at almost 20 a night. On the flip side, they allow almost 19 points off of turnovers a game, fifth highest in the NBA. The Pelicans are tough on both sides of the ball, and if Brooklyn is able to force them into turnovers and get easy baskets in transition, it’ll help them establish the flow of the game and keep the raucous New Orleans crowd at bay.
The Nets are going to need more from Ben Simmons. Against the Bulls, he had seven points, nine rebounds, two assists, three steals, and four turnovers in 25:50 of game play. It didn’t feel as if he made a mark on the game while he was out there on Wednesday. His last play of the game came early in the fourth as he was matched up with Goran Dragic:
That’s no fun. On the bright side, he made a free throw after not making any for a touch over a month. Make or miss, the Nets need him to be assertive and aggressive when he’s got the ball in his hand. The Nets short and long term prospects hinge on Simmons being a star on both sides of the ball. No time better than the present to make it happen.
Player to watch: CJ McCollum
Without the dynamic duo, McCollum has kept the party going. On the season, CJ is averaging around 20 points and six assists a night on .424/.395/.816 shooting splits. When he’s got it cooking, he’s absolutely lethal in the midrange area and can take over late. He’s shooting a career low 40.8 percent from the midrange this season, but all it takes is one shot to go on in and he’s in rhythm. It’s going to take a team effort to slow him down tonight and the Nets will have to be up to the challenge.
On the site, we’ve covered Kyrie Irving’s charitable donations before. Irving is very deliberate and intentional about forming community and being there for others in need. Irving recently chipped in to help another family in need. There was a recent fire in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania that destroyed apartments and left families in dire straits. So far, the families have received close to $44,000 in donations, with Irving donating $22k to the fund. Alex Struble spoke about the donations from Irving and other community members with education reporter, Keely Doll, of the Centre Daily Times:
“It really was the community coming out to us first and already knowing that they were going to help us no matter what the situation was. They started the healing process for us before we knew it and we are so thankful for that.”
Community is a beautiful thing. And by our count, Irving’s holiday giving through nine GoFundMe appeals is now close to $400,000. He also gave another $60,000 to a Muslim school in the city.
On the court, Irving will look to bounce back from an eh game by his standards. He went 10-24 from the field against the Bulls and only 1-8 from three point range. Irving is one of the best finishers at the rim in the game, and he might be a bit more aggressive tonight. On the season, the Pelicans allow opponents to shoot 71.9 percent inside of the restricted area, highest in the NBA. Irving and the Nets should look to push the tempo as much as possible.
From the Vault
It’s been a long, long time since we’ve seen a New Orleans basketball team look as good as the Pelicans are right now
More reading: The Bird Writes
- Brooklyn Nets Game Notes - Brooklyn Nets
- New Orleans Pelicans Game Notes - New Orleans Pelicans
- Nets-Pelicans matchup pits two teams on rise - STATS
- Nets in unfamiliar spot rebounding from rare defeat - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Kevin Durant in NBA MVP conversation on way to leading East in All-Star votes - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- NBA futures predictions: Can anyone catch Joe Mazzulla for Coach of the Year? - C Jackson Cowart - New York Post
- Nets didn’t overreact to winning streak, but the NBA took notice - Barbara Barker - Newsday
- Kevin Durant opens up about trade request, tanking, fans and free agency - Nick Friedell - ESPN
- Jose Alvarado says the Pelicans are ‘OK being that crazy team’ in the NBA - Christian Clark - New Orleans Times-Picayune