Can the Brooklyn Nets (7-14) continue to ride momentum for their first 3-game winning streak of the season? They are currently on their first 2-game winning streak after beating Milwaukee on Saturday and Boston on Tuesday. However, tonight they face a much tougher opponent in the first place Los Angeles Clippers (15-8). The Clippers have also won two in a row against Philadelphia and Boston. However, this will be the 6th game of a 7-game road trip and the second game of a back-to-back, so I would not be surprised if the Clippers looked a little bit more tired or slow than usual.
These two teams played earlier this year with the Clippers barely sneaking by the Nets in Los Angeles. The Nets did not have Deron Williams, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Brook Lopez, or Andrei Kirilenko in that game, so the Clippers probably should have won by more than 7 points.
With the eastern conference as bad as it is, the Nets really have a good opportunity to make up some ground in this game. With a win tonight, the Nets will only be a single game out of first place in the division and 8th place in the conference. There are only 2 teams over .500 right now in the east, so it is still realistic that Brooklyn could finish as high as third in the conference this year, believe it or not.
Injuries: The Nets are finally playing against a team with as many injuries as them. Although Andrei Kirilenko and Jason Terry are most likely still out for Brooklyn, the Clippers will not have J.J. Redick, Matt Barnes, and Reggie Bullock. This will make L.A.’s bench significantly weaker that it usually is.
Deron Williams vs. Chris Paul. Advantage: Paul
Chris Paul has definitely surpassed Deron Williams now in the best point guards discussion, mainly because Deron has been unable to stay healthy since his trade to the Nets. Paul is having another all-NBA season, averaging 19 points, 12 assists, and 5 rebounds per game. However, Deron Williams always seems to bring his best effort against Paul and he missed the previous meeting between the two teams. He played very, very well on Tuesday night and I expect another good game from D-Will tonight.
Joe Johnson vs. Jamal Crawford. Advantage: Johnson
With JJ Redick out, Willie Green has been starting for the Clippers, but Jamal Crawford will get more minutes. Crawford has been one of the best bench players in the NBA for a long time, but Joe Johnson has been one of the best starters. Johnson struggled on Tuesday with all the Nets’ starters finally in the lineup. He should still be able to get a good amount of shots even when the Nets are healthy.
Paul Pierce vs. Jared Dudley. Advantage: Pierce
It will be interesting to see if Kidd decides to continue starting Alan Anderson or to move Paul Pierce back into the starting lineup. Pierce has said that he is fine with whatever Kidd’s decision is, but I think that is just him being a good teammate and not wanting to become a big news story. I don’t think Pierce is happy coming off the bench and I think the Nets are better off with him as a starter. We’ll see what Kidd decides to do. Dudley has been a disappointment for the Clippers this year, shooting only 32% from 3, 8 points lower than his 40% career average.
Kevin Garnett vs. Blake Griffin. Advantage: Griffin
Griffin, who is known mainly for his dunks, is putting up pretty good number again this year with 21 points and 11 rebounds per game, which is close to his career averages. I expect Kevin Garnett to struggle against the much more athletic Griffin in this game. Garnett has not played well this year, but he has at least been rebounding pretty well recently. The Nets will need that tonight against LA’s big front line.
Brook Lopez vs. DeAndre Jordan. Advantage: Lopez
Jordan is one of the league’s leading rebounders at over 13 per game and is even scoring 10 ppg this year, a career high. Brook Lopez did not play the first time these teams met this season, but he is healthy tonight. If Jordan has the ball in the paint, the Nets really should just foul him whenever he goes up for a shot. He is under a 40% free throw shooter, among the worst in the NBA. Lopez is coming off 2 extremely efficient games against Milwaukee and Boston. The Clippers are better defensively than either of those teams, so we will see what he can do tonight.
Bold prediction: Andray Blatche will have a big game off the bench. The Clippers don’t have much in terms of big guys on their bench and I think Blatche will be able to dominate against Ryan Hollins, Byron Mullens, and Antawn Jamison.
Score prediction: Nets 98, Clippers 94. The Clippers are tired and the Nets are healthy. This is the perfect game for the Nets to win against a better opponent.
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