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With Kyrie Irving in Dallas, Nets host Clippers at Barclays

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Los Angeles Clippers v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images

Professionalism goes a long, long way. When you work with other people, you’re expected to do your job, be there for your peers, and try your best. It makes for a good environment and creates a healthy atmosphere. And with that, I turn it over to Jacque Vaughn...

True indeed. On Saturday night, the Brooklyn Nets played host to the Washington Wizards at Barclays Center. The juice was out of the building as the players and fans appeared to be out of it. No KD, no Kyrie, just a lot of questions. However, the guys who wanted to be here fought hard, crawled all the way back from a 23-point deficit and pulled off an improbable win for the Brooklyn faithful.

Awaiting the Nets will be one of the more fascinating teams in the NBA. It felt like this was the year the Los Angeles Clippers would put it all together and make a run to the Finals. It hasn’t gone that way yet, but They currently sit in fourth place in the Western Conference standings after beating the New York Knicks in overtime at MSG on Saturday night.

Where to follow the game

YES Network for us, NBATV for the rest of y’all. WFAN on radio. Tip after 7:30 p.m. ET


Kevin Durant is out. Seth Curry got injured on Saturday and is out with a left adductor strain. TJ Warren is probable with a left shin contusion. Ben Simmons is questionable with left knee soreness. Will Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith get through the process in time to play? And of course there could be more moves by game time. Stay tuned.

Only John Wall is out for the Clippers.

The game

Brooklyn won the first meeting in November.

It’s a new day in New York City. After four years of drama, toxicity, and bad vibes mixed in with some amazing moments of basketball brilliance, Kyrie Irving is gone. He and the team finally divorced and he (along with Markieff Morris) is on the way to the Dallas Mavericks. Coming this way will be Dorian Finney-Smith, some draft picks, and our old friend, Spencer Dinwiddie. The Irving era is over, and in the days to come, we will get a full accounting as to how things went so catastrophically wrong.

For those that remain, they have the job of building off Saturday’s electric victory. That starts with Edmund Sumner. Sumner got the start at point guard and had the best game of his young career. He scored a career high 29 points and pushed the pedal to the metal every chance he could.

One thing about the Nets is that they haven’t gotten downhill very often, and Sumner presents a change of pace in that regard. The Nets need to consistently attack the basket, and Sumner can help correct that.

The Clippers are one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA thanks in large part to Ivica Zubac. Big Zu is fourth in the league in offensive rebounding at a touch over three per game and is tenth overall in rebounds per game. Zubac will prove to be a fun challenge for Nic Claxton. Clax had another great day office at the office with 15/13/5/3/1. The most impressive part of his game was the fact that he went 7-of-8 from the free throw line. If he’s able to consistently step up and convert at the foul line, it’ll open up more opportunities for him and keep him on the court.

Depth was a calling card for the Clippers coming in to the season, and while they’re second in bench scoring this season, it’s been called into question. Ty Lue only played eight guys in an overtime game over the weekend and the team is rumored to be shopping players like Robert Covington and Luke Kennard.

Paul George is working in a new role. He’s doing more point guard work these days, and it’s been a bit of a bumpy ride. At Clips Nation, Josh Sexton wrote about PG’s game vs. the Knicks and said:

The Clippers have three problems when it comes to the point guard position. Firstly, PG himself is clearly struggling as he tries to adjust to assuming the playmaking duties, finishing with another team-high four turnovers. Secondly, Coach Lue clearly likes to play with one ‘traditional’ point guard on the floor, especially down the stretch. Thirdly, the team’s current ‘traditional’ point guard options are not good enough to be on the floor, especially down the stretch.

Paul will probably have more good games than bad as the lead ball handler, so long as he stays healthy and continues to get reps as the de-facto point guard. However, Ty’s desire to still have that more traditional option on the floor down the stretch means that the easiest way to negate the weaknesses of PG, Reggie Jackson and even John Wall, is to find an upgrade at that position.

Even with the lack of a full point guard alongside him, PG is giving the Clips 23 points, six rebounds, and five assists a night on .464/.391/.872 shooting splits. We’ve seen him carry his team deep into the playoffs before, so the goal for LA is to avoid the play in, make it to the dance at full strength, and trust your stars to get you to the top of the mountain.

Slowing George down will likely fall on the shoulders of Royce O’Neale. Royce got the Kristaps Porzingis assignment for large portions of the night on Saturday, and acquitted himself well under the circumstances. O’Neale has taken on more ballhandling responsibilities, and has already set a career high in assists for a season. It wasn’t expected, but to have another capable ballhandler like him has been a welcome development for a Nets team needing everyone to push in the right direction.

Player to watch: Kawhi Leonard

Say hello to the fun guy. Kawhi’s knee injury essentially guarantees that he’ll never play both legs of a back-to-back ever again, but when he is on the court, he’s still the superstar player that makes things happen. 22 points a night on .497/.351/.868 splits is damn good and when the game is close late, you can turn to him and trust that he’ll succeed.

Cam Thomas will have a lot more on his shoulders, but he appears to be ready for it. The young gun had a star making performance on Saturday as his 44 points off the bench powered the Nets comeback. There were so many wonderful moments about his game, and his three to put the team up late was monumental and had Brooklyn on its feet

We’ve spent all year talking about the Nets needing players who can get their own shot, and Thomas fits that criteria. Like Sumner, he gets downhill consistently and puts pressure on opponents in that way. There are still areas for him to get better in, but when you have a young player as talented as him, it might be best to throw him out there and trust that he’s gonna be special. It’s been working so far.

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More reading: Clips Nation