Tonight, the Brooklyn Nets return home to Barclays Center to face Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and the Los Angeles Clippers. The Nets (6-4) are coming off back-to-back losses to the Lakers and Warriors. The Clippers (8-3) have won 6 of their last 7 games, but most recently lost in overtime against Oklahoma City.
The story in this game will be the battle of the point guards, Deron Williams and Chris Paul. This rivalry started in the 2005 NBA draft, when D-Will was taken with the 3rd pick by Utah and CP3 was taken 4th by New Orleans. They battled in relative anonymity in those two cities for 5 or 6 years, but now have moved on to the spotlights of New York and Los Angeles. They were also both members of the 2008 and 2012 USA olympic teams.
Let’s look at both teams, starting with the Clippers. In the second year of the Chris Paul-Blake Griffin experiment, the team has gotten off to a great start and look like title contenders. They already have picked up some great wins this year including beating San Antonio twice, the Lakers once, and Miami once. This game will be the third on a four-game road trip for the Clippers.
The Nets started the year very well at 6-2, but have dropped 2 straight games on the west coast. This is the first game of a 3-game homestand for the Nets, where they hope to go at least 2-1. The last time the Clippers visited the Nets, New Jersey got a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Jordan Farmar to give the Nets the win in probably the most exciting game of the season for the Nets. They hope to have another exciting win tonight.
Injuries: The Nets have no significant injuries. Gerald Wallace did not play in the last game, but he should be 100% tonight and should have no minutes restrictions. Even though the Clippers are 8-3, they haven’t been healthy the entire year. Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, and Grant Hill are all out. That should not be surprising, because all those players are very old.
Deron Williams vs. Chris Paul. Advantage: Paul
This might be a matchup of the best two point guards in the NBA, but only one of these players has been playing up to his talent level this year. Although D-Will has not played badly, he has yet to get in a rhythm with the Nets. Paul has been on his game for the first 11 games for the Clippers and has led them to an 8-3 record. It will be very fun watching these two go head-to-head tonight.
Joe Johnson vs. Willie Green. Advantage: Johnson
Although Willie Green is starting for the Clippers, he will not be playing meaningful minutes in the fourth quarter. Jamal Crawford, the Clippers 6th man, will be playing those minutes. Joe Johnson is still struggling for the Nets. Maybe this homestand will help him turn back into the 6-time all-star that he is.
Gerald Wallace vs. Matt Barnes. Advantage: Wallace
Avery Johnson has said that Gerald Wallace is near 100% health now and will not be limited at all. He did not play on Wednesday against Golden State because he was given a night off to fully recover. Matt Barnes is the definition of a journeyman and has played on 9 teams in his 10-year career, including having a stint with every single team in the Pacific Division. He will not be starting once Grant Hill and Caron Butler are healthy again.
Kris Humphries vs. Blake Griffin. Advantage: Griffin
This is one of my favorite player rivalries in the NBA that nobody knows about. These two guys hate each other. I don’t know why, but if you watch either of the games from last year where Griffin and Humphries played against each other, you will see the hatred. Basketball-wise, Griffin is obviously the superior player because of his athleticism, although he is overrated because of his dunks. This is a pretty good matchup for Humphries and I don’t see Griffin scoring over 20 tonight. I hope these two get into a brawl.
Brook Lopez vs. DeAndre Jordan. Advantage: Lopez
On offense, DeAndre Jordan can dunk, and that’s about it. Because of that, his field goal percentage is one of the highest in the NBA at over 66%. On defense, he averages over 2 blocks per game and is a good defensive presence. Lopez is much more of a finesse player and he can hit jump shots. I like Brook in this matchup.
Prediction: Clippers 98, Nets 95.
The Nets may struggle to win close games early on in the season, and I think that will be the case tonight. The Clippers have been playing great the entire season and know how to win close games. This should be a very fun game to watch so make sure you tune in.