The Brooklyn Nets return to action tonight when it hosts the Los Angeles Clippers at Barclays Center.
For the Nets, this is the first home game since a 102-97 victory over the Boston Celtics back on November 15.
The Nets have lost each of its last two games to the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors and are looking to rebound. Here is your pregame primer…
The Nets are 4-1 at Barclays Center thus far this season and the last home win was an impressive one over the Boston Celtics. After the Nets 102-93 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Nov. 21, coach Avery Johnson told reporters that many of the league’s great teams usually win about half of its road games. If that’s the case, the Nets will need to be a dominant team at Barclays Center.
The Clippers will come into Barclays Center having gone 3-1 on the road thus far, so something will have to give.
Deron Williams vs. Chris Paul
Years ago, when Deron Williams and Chris Paul played for the Utah Jazz and the New Orleans Hornets, respectively, the two were widely considered to be amongst the best point guards in the NBA. Paul enters tonight’s game averaging 15.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 9.9 assists per game while Williams is averaging 17.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 8.2 assists per game.
Williams is coming off of a poor outing against the Golden State Warriors in which he scored just nine points and shot just 4-for-12. The last time he squared off against a premier point guard at Barclays Center, it was the Cleveland Cavaliers Kyrie Irving. Against Irving, Williams scored a season-high 26 points. More importantly, he led the Nets to a victory.
Having lost its last two, the Nets will need Williams to win the point guard battle if its to score a victory over one of the league’s better teams in the Clippers. In the past, these two have had some spirited battles, so those that will be watching tonight may be in for a treat.
Blake Griffin and Pick and Roll Defense
Paul is a master of the pick-and-roll. Many of his former teammates, such as David West of the Indiana Pacers and Tyson Chandler of the New York Knicks, enjoyed success playing with him. The same can be said of both Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan—the Clippers starting front line. The Clippers are amongst the league leaders in slam dunks and alley oops, and it’s because of Paul’s proficiency at reading defenses and his Griffin and Jordan’s ability to play pick-and-roll basketball.
Blake Griffin has made a name for himself with his freakish athleticism and reckless abandon. Anyway you slice it, he’s a hand full.
For Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries, and Andray Blatche, the Clippers imposing front line will challenge them. especially when it comes to defending the pick-and-roll.
Clippers shooting guard Jamal Crawford leads the team in scoring, averaging 19.7 points per game. Crawford is known as a prolific scorer but it’s not everyday that the NBA sees a reserve lead his team in that area. Coach Vinny Del Negro usually allows Crawford to create his own looks and shots off the dribble and it’s been successful for them thus far.
Entering play on Friday night, the Clippers are 5-1 in games in which Crawford scores more than 20 points, so keeping him in check is very important.
In order to earn a victory tonight, the Nets can’t allow Crawford to take over the game, and it would be especially helpful if C.J. Watson and Andray Blatche were able to collectively best his scoring efforts.
The Clippers currently rank sixth in the NBA in turnovers, giving away possessions 16 times per game. The Nets, on the other hand, are the fourth best team at taking care of the ball, averaging just 13 turnovers per game. One way or another, if either the Clippers or Nets can turn turnovers into easy transition opportunities, it’ll certainly have an impact on the game.
The team that wins the turnover battle, will probably win the game.