The Brooklyn Nets (40-28) will look to start their season high 8-game road trip at 3-0 Saturday night when they visit the exciting Los Angeles Clippers (47-22). The Nets are coming off convincing wins in Detroit and Dallas to start the road trip, but this will be the first playoff team they face. The Clippers are one of the best teams in the NBA despite being only 4th in the western conference. If they had been in the east, they would have a 4-game lead over Indiana for second place in the conference.
The Nets seem to be catching the Clippers at a good time as they don’t appear to be playing their best basketball of the season right now. They are only 4-4 in their past 8 games and two of those losses have been at home.
This will be the second and final meeting of the season for the Nets and Clippers. Brooklyn won the first meeting at home early in the season, 86-76. Brook Lopez had 26 points in that game and the Nets’ defense really shut down the Clippers’ offense in the second half. LA was held to just 29 second half points and only 13 in the fourth quarter. However, that game was a long time ago in November when Avery Johnson was still coaching the Nets. It will be very difficult for Brooklyn to contain “Lob City” again, especially on the road.
Injuries: The Clippers have a couple of small injuries, especially to their guards. Chauncey Billups and Eric Bledsoe are both doubtful for the game which could hurt the Clippers. Ronny Turiaf is also questionable. The Nets continue to remain healthy.
Deron Williams vs. Chris Paul. Advantage: Williams
I wrote in depth about these two superstars which you can read here. Deron gets the advantage for this game because he is playing better right now. Over the last month, he is averaging 8 more ppg than Chris Paul. Still, whenever these two play against each other, anything can happen. Because of defense, I expect each to have a pretty quiet, 15-point game.
Joe Johnson vs. Willie Green/Jamal Crawford. Advantage: Johnson
Green gets the start for LA with Billups and Bledsoe out. He is only averaging 6 ppg this season and probably won’t play very many minutes. Crawford is my pick for 6th man of the year in the NBA. He is averaging 17 ppg off the bench and can explode for 30 any night. Still, the advantage goes to Joe Johnson for being a better all around player and better defender.
Gerald Wallace vs. Caron Butler. Advantage: Butler
At 33 years old, Butler isn’t what he once was, but is still a nice player to have. This season he is averaging 10 points and 3 rebounds per game. He is mainly a 3-point shooter, attempting over 4 per game and shooting at just under 38%. Wallace will likely guard Butler, but could also defend Matt Barnes and possibly even Jamal Crawford at points in the game.
Reggie Evans vs. Blake Griffin. Advantage: Griffin
Griffin’s numbers are a little bit down this season. He is only averaging 18.5 points and 8.6 rebounds per game when his career numbers are 21 and 11. However, he is shooting 55% from the field and a career high 65% from the foul line, so it is difficult to play hack-a-Blake. Reggie Evans is Griffin’s former teammate and this will be Reggie’s first game visiting the Clippers this season. Expect to see some battles between these two players. Also, if Kris Humphries somehow plays in this game, he will also be fighting with Griffin. For some reason, Humphries and Griffin have never liked each other and whenever they play it is very chippy.
Brook Lopez vs. DeAndre Jordan. Advantage: Lopez
Jordan is pretty much a dunker and that is it. He is not a great defender or rebounder and he is a terrible shooter. He is shooting at just over 40% from the foul line and has had a bunch of air-balled free throws this season. Brook Lopez should again have a pretty good game. He is coming off a season high 38 points on Wednesday in Dallas.
Prediction: Nets 102, Clippers 96.
I don’t have a whole lot of confidence in this pick, but I think the Nets will be able to pull the minor upset during the NCAA tournament. Deron Williams’s teams have played well against Chris Paul’s in his career and the Nets have won 2 in a row against LA. The Clippers are beatable at home and have 8 home losses in the season. The Nets will find a way to start this Circus trip at an impressive 3-0.