Another magic moment was in their grasps. The Brooklyn Nets played host to the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night as they hoped to build on Saturday night’s incredible victory against the Washington Wizards. The team put up a hell of a fight throughout the night, but wound up falling short in the end.
I still don’t know what to make of the Phoenix Suns. The vibes around the team look absolutely atrocious and it feels like everyone is tired of each other. However, things might be breaking their way. Steph Curry will be out indefinitely again, so it stands to reason the Golden State Warriors will slide in the standings. They helped the cause with a road win against the Detroit Pistons on Saturday night. Once this wraps up, they hit the road to start a back-to-back on Thursday against the Atlanta Hawks and Indiana Pacers.
Where to follow the game
YES Network and TNT on TV. WFAN on radio. Tip after 7:30 PM.
We’re supposed to be getting an update on Kevin Durant’s knee injury today, so we’ll see what happens. Ben Simmons will be back. This is night two of a back-to-back so we’ll see if TJ Warren is available.
Cam Payne is out with a right foot sprain. Landry Shamet is out with right foot soreness. Josh Okogie is available with a nasal fracture. Jae Crowder is still not welcome in Phoenix until they find a suitable trade. More on that momentarily. Devin Booker will be making his return after he’s been sidelined with a groin injury since Christmas against the Denver Nuggets.
Phoenix won the first game in January.
The Suns are in a pretty tricky spot. They finally got Robert Sarver out the paint and have a new guy in charge with Mat Ishbia being introduced to the media and Suns/Phoenix Mercury fans on Wednesday. Dave King of Bright Side of the Sun laid out the stakes like this:
Suns President of Basketball Operations James Jones is walking across a narrow beam. A hundred feet off the ground. In heels.
Jones can negotiate trades all he wants, but he needs ownership approval to actually consummate anything. You can bet Ishbia is already giving direction, quietly, informally, through outgoing governor Sarver to interim governor Garvin. Like Baelish in GOT.
Nic Claxton will be battling with DeAndre Ayton on the inside. Claxton did the thing again with a 15/16/1/2/3 line in 35 minutes as he battled with Ivica Zubac on the inside. Clax has continued to blossom and went 5-8 from the free throw line as well. If he’s able to continue improving at the line, it will ensure he’s on the court late and able to throw a wrench in the opponent’s plans. Ayton has been on fire as of late, averaging 21 points and almost 12 rebounds a night on 57.8 percent shooting from the field over his last eight games. Ayton wore the Nets out the first time, but left the game due to an illness. He’s back now and Clax will battle with the Suns star on the inside. The Suns are one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA, and it’s going to take a big team effort for the Nets to keep up.
We’re gonna have a shootout from downtown tonight. The Nets and Suns are second and third in efficiency from three point range, which is even more impressive for Phoenix considering that we haven’t seen Booker and Shamet in ages. For Brooklyn, they will count on Royce O’Neale to keep it going from downtown. Royce tied a season high with five three pointers last night and his ability to knock those shots down creates a boatload of space for players like Edmund Sumner to drive and attack the basket.
Discipline will be integral to this contest. Some ill timed fouls and turnovers doomed the Nets last night and they will need to clean that up if they want to pull off the victory
Devin Booker is back at the absolute perfect time. The Western Conference is crowded and Book could be the player to get them back to title contention. Phoenix has desperately missed his 27 points a game on .477/.370/.850 shooting splits. Tonight is the first game of a three games in four nights stretch, so it stands to reason he’ll sit a game out. Booker’s not going to the All Star Game, but he’s still the top guard in the league and he’ll have his first opportunity to remind people tonight.
Ben Simmons is back, and it’s going to be interesting to see how he is utilized tonight. Will he be on a minutes restriction? Who knows. With Irving gone, he’ll have the ball in his hands even more and his job will be to keep the offense moving. Simmons will likely slide back into his role as second center on the team and the Nets will need him to bang on the inside and get the team on the go in transition.
The addition of Dorian Finney-Smith will give the Nets another rangy defender that can take on the task of guarding elite perimeter players. The Nets have been a bit undersized and having a 6’7 forward will help immensely. It’ll be exciting to see what lineup combinations Jacque Vaughn and the Nets will test out tonight.
Spencer Dinwiddie is back, and ready to do damage. Dinwiddie is one of the league leaders in drives per game, and it’s something this Nets team has been missing for most of the year. He’s also shooting a career best 40.5 percent from three point range this season. Now that he’s back in familiar grounds, he’ll look to power the team deep into the postseason and beyond. It’s a welcome reunion after some good years in Brooklyn and a near All Star berth way back in
the before time 2020. Dinwiddie is also a Suns antagonist so it’ll be fun to see if he can replicate his Game 7 masterpiece with the Dallas Mavericks from last year’s playoffs.
Player to watch: Chris Paul
Father time comes for all of us eventually. Paul has been battling injuries this year and it’s led to his worst year as a professional. His 43.7 percent from the field is the lowest since the beginning of his career back with the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets. That’s probably why the Suns poked around trying to get Kyrie Irving and were ready to toss Paul overboard to do it
Sources: Brooklyn Nets received Los Angeles Lakers’ proposal that did include team’s two first-round picks (2027, 2029) and Phoenix Suns’ offer of Chris Paul, Jae Crowder and unspecified picks: @NBATV pic.twitter.com/cJuABbaYGy— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) February 6, 2023
It’s tough to deal with a legend on the decline, and when we find out you wanted to get rid of him, it could make for an awkward relationship. In the meantime, the Suns have to manage Paul’s minutes so he’s got enough in the tank to go all out come playoff time.
Here’s some good ass company to be in...
Well I’ll be. Cam Thomas is on the run of a lifetime and had an incredible 47 points against an elite Clippers team last night. Thomas went 7-11 from three point range, but perhaps most importantly, he took 11 free throws and attacked the basket at every opportunity. Thomas has always been a player that can get his own shot, and now that he’s been more consistent from three point range, it opens up even more opportunities for him to succeed.
DraftKings Odds [via Tom Lorenzo]
What are the odds: Nets +5.5; ML +185; O/U 225
This is going to be a tough one, to be honest. I have no idea how the new Nets are going to integrate into the lineup. We’ve seen Cam Thomas blaze onto the scene, but on night two of a back-to-back and against a top 10 defense; I’m hesitant to think that Cam is a nightly 40 spot.
Devin Booker is also expected back for the Suns, so that offense which has been among the worst in the NBA (27th) since he went down is going to get a nice boost. It’s actually been the Suns defense that has kept them afloat, with a 107.7 DRTG over their last 10.
I’m going to start here, however, by taking the Over. The Suns offense gets a boost - and potentially takes a bit of a hit with Booker back - and the Nets offense continues to hum along even without Kevin Durant in the lineup. They have been a top 3 offense over the last two weeks, and while the Suns defense has been their strength I do think with Booker back we’re going to see a bit of a pace and run style game.
Give me the OVER at 225.
As for the line itself, it is worth noting that the Suns aren’t a very good road team (10-17) and, as mentioned, the Nets are a hang around team (as we saw against the Clippers) even without Durant (and ultimately Kyrie Irving on Monday night). I don’t know that they’ll have enough to overcome the Suns, so not sure I’ll balk at the ML, but I do like them with the +5.5 points.
From the Vault
Later tonight when the Los Angeles Lakers host the Oklahoma City Thunder, LeBron James will likely surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and become the NBA’s all time leading scorer. It’s been a long, wonderful journey to get here for James with plenty of magical games along the way
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More reading: Bright Side of the Sun