This was supposed to be one of the most anticipated games of the season with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce going up against the former coach with the Celtics, Doc Rivers. Instead, 4 out of the 5 Brooklyn (3-5) starters could miss the game, the second of a road back-to-back, while the healthy Clippers (6-3) have won 3 in a row and haven’t played since Wednesday.
Yes, the Nets won last night in Phoenix. But it was a very costly win. Deron Williams injured his ankle in the first quarter and we still don’t know when he will return, even though he said this injury isn’t as bad as some of his past injuries. Then later in the game, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Brook Lopez all suffered minor injuries but played through them. All these players except for Garnett, who is a game-time decision, are already out of tonight’s game. I don’t expect Garnett to play either, as this is the second game of a back-to-back.
On top of this, the only healthy starter, Joe Johnson, played a team high 45 minutes last night and admitted to being tired after the game. Also, Andrei Kirilenko is still out with back spasms. So basically, the Nets are in trouble in this game.
With all these players out, other players will be asked to step up for the Nets. Toko Shengelia was called up for the game and might get his first minutes of the season. Tyshawn Taylor may also get 10-15 minutes after barely playing through the first 8 games.
After getting embarrassed by the Lakers in their first game, the Clippers are back on top of the pacific division and have been playing very well recently with wins over Houston, Minnesota, and Oklahoma City. They are also well-rested and healthy.
Injuries: As discussed earlier, the Nets will be without Deron Williams, Paul Pierce, Brook Lopez, Andrei Kirilenko, and likely Kevin Garnett. The Clippers don’t have any significant injuries.
Shaun Livingston vs. Chris Paul. Advantage: Paul
I have loved Livingston as much as anybody recently and he played great last night, but come on, Chris Paul is still one of the best point guards in the NBA. He is putting together an MVP-caliber season, averaging 20 points and 13 assists per game. Livingston does have a significant size advantage over Paul, but Paul is much quicker than Livingston.
Joe Johnson vs. JJ Redick. Advantage: Johnson
Joe Johnson is playing tonight, but I would be shocked to see him play more than 30 minutes after he played 45 last night, especially because this has a good chance of being a blowout. Redick was one of the Clippers’ key offseason additions. He is an excellent shooter and if he can get open tonight against a weakened Nets defense, he could score 20 points easily.
Alan Anderson vs. Jared Dudley. Advantage: Dudley
I assume Anderson will start in place of Pierce and Kirilenko, unless Jason Kidd has some other ideas. Tonight will be a good opportunity for Anderson to show off his skills and he will probably be one of the leading scorers on the team in this game. Dudley hasn’t gotten off to a great start this season, but like Redick, he is a very good shooter.
Reggie Evans vs. Blake Griffin. Advantage: Griffin
Unless Kevin Garnett can play, Reggie Evans will likely be in the starting lineup tonight. Reggie and Blake Griffin are former teammates with the Clippers. Griffin has never seemed to like the Nets very much, often getting into skirmishes with Kris Humphries. I expect that chippiness to continue in this game. Griffin has been one of the most overrated players in the NBA since his rookie season, but his numbers this year have been very good: 22 points and 11 rebounds while shooting 57% from the field. He still can’t shoot free throws though.
Anday Blatche vs. DeAndre Jordan. Advantage: Jordan
Coming into the year, I might have given Blatche the advantage here, but he has just been so bad so far that Jordan gets the nod. Like Griffin, Jordan cannot shoot foul shots at all, but is having a career year in both points and rebounds. I expect a ton of lobs to Griffin and Jordan tonight against the unathletic Reggie and Blatche.
Bold prediction: The Clippers will have 10 dunks in the game. The Nets have no rim protection without Garnett and Lopez. They are unathletic and slow. Chris Paul should be able to find his big guys for plenty of dunks tonight.
Score prediction: Clippers 117, Nets 88. This one is going to be ugly. If you want to go to sleep and pass on this game, nobody will blame you.