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Clippers-Nets preview: Starting a new win streak

The Clippers make their first visit to Brooklyn to play the Nets. After losing in overtime in Oklahoma City on Wednesday, the Clippers will be looking to get back on the winning track.

2012/2013 NBA Regular Season

November 23rd, 2012, 4:30 PM
Barclays Center
Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM
Clippers Tickets
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Deron Williams
Willie Green SG Joe Johnson
Matt Barnes SF Gerald Wallace
Blake Griffin PF Kris Humphries
DeAndre Jordan C Brook Lopez
Advanced Stats through Nov. 20
93.3 (8th of 30) Pace 88.6 (30th of 30)
108.7 (5th of 30) ORtg 108.6 (6th of 30)
100.7 (5th of 30) DRtg 105.7 (21st of 30)
Caron Butler (strained shoulder) GTD
Gerald Wallace (ankle) probable
Chauncey Billups (Achilles surgery) out
Jerry Stackhouse (old) probable
Trey Thompkins (knee) out
Grant Hill (knee) out

The Back Story:

First meeting of the season. The teams split two games last season.

The Big Picture:

After winning six straight games, the Clippers streak ended in overtime in Oklahoma City Wednesday night, so they'll have to start a new one tonight in Brooklyn against the revamped Nets. Chris Paul renews his long running rivalry with Deron Williams, and hopefully he'll shoot a little better than he did in OKC, where he was 1-12 in regulation and finished 2-14. The Clippers could use a better game from Paul, but they could also use Caron Butler back, though at least they're not facing Kevin Durant tonight. In the absence of Butler, Matt Barnes has played very well at the small forward but the injury leaves the Clippers pretty thin on the wing. This will be the Clippers first visit to the brand new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and frankly they won't be sad not to be going to New Jersey, where they had lost 12 of their last 13 against the Nets, including four in a row to some pretty bad teams. Last season's defeat at the buzzer against the Nets was one of the worse defeats of the season for the Clippers. The state of New Jersey was never kind to the Clippers -- maybe the borough of Brooklyn will be better.

The Antagonist:

Someone should do the math on the most expensive starting lineup in the NBA. The Lakers clearly have the most expensive first unit (about $83M on the back of the envelope) but the Nets (over $70M) must surely be next. In a stunning display of largess, the Nets have actively taken on all of that salary during 2012 -- trading for Gerald Wallace and Joe Johnson and re-signing Williams, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez. Mikhail Prokhorov is fabulously wealthy, but having $72M in salary committed to the team in 2015/16 is truly breathtaking. I guess not every owner is afraid of the new luxury tax. Whether this group can deliver the NBA Championship that Prokhorov has guaranteed is an open question. Or actually, it's not -- they can't. No way. Williams is great and Lopez is a terrific young scoring center. But Wallace is 30 and Humphries is limited, and then there's Johnson. At 31 he appears he may have started his decline -- he's shooting a miserable 36 percent this season -- and he still has three years and almost $70M left no his completely toxic contract. The Nets will be reasonably competitive in the East this season, but they've got massive problems in their quest to be a contender.

The Subplots

  • Comparison of key metrics. It's no surprise that an Avery Johnson led team plays at the slowest pace in the NBA. Johnson likes to keep full control over his offense so he's got Williams walking the ball up the court on every play. But the Nets, along with the Clippers, do have one of the most efficient offenses in the league.
  • Evans the flopper. You've probably already heard by now that former Clipper Reggie Evans recently became the first player to receive a fine under the NBA's new flopping policy. When Metta World Peace brushed past him in L.A. on Tuesday, Reggie went sprawling to the side, earning a foul on MWP and a $5K fine for his second flop of the season. None of this is news to Clipper fans -- flopping is a major part of Reggie's arsenal. The question of whether he cares that he was fined -- of whether it's worth it to him if he can continue to draw extra fouls on his opponents, earn extra possessions for his team -- remains unanswered. There's a purity in Reggie's flopping that you have to admire. He does it for the joy of the flop. He flops not for himself, but for all of us.
  • Avery and the hack. Speaking of things that ruin the game of basketball, Nets coach Avery Johnson made the dubious decision on Tuesday against the Lakers to intentionally foul Dwight Howard while his team was leading in the fourth quarter. This is the new en vogue hacking strategy -- you hack to protect a lead, ostensibly because a three point basket can cut into a lead a lot faster than a bad free throw shooter. There's only one problem with the strategy -- IT'S EFFING IDIOTIC! Fouls stop the clock. By fouling, you're creating more possessions in a game in which you lead -- how is that a good idea? NBA teams as a whole average one point per possession -- even the worst free throw shooter in the league is likely to make one out of two, so the expected value of playing defense for a possession is at least as good as the expected value of fouling in all but the most extreme cases. So by fouling, you're just extending a game in which you lead. In the case of the game against the Lakers, the Nets had held L.A. to two points over almost seven minutes of the fourth quarter -- so sure, change things up, start fouling. So, so stupid. Howard only made one of two the two times he was fouled intentionally, but it triggered a 17-6 run for the Lakers that changed the game. I'm sad when the Lakers win, but I'm happy when terrible strategies lose, so it was OK.
  • More on Avery. Avery Johnson has been on my list ever since he was coaching Dallas and tanked that game against the Warriors back in 2007 when the Clippers were fighting Golden State for the eighth seed. Of course we all know how that story ended for Avery and the Mavs. Karma is a bitch.
  • Hacking and Jordan. Of course, if Avery was willing to hack Howard (shooting 49 percent on the season and almost 59 percent on his career) you can bet he's going to hack DeAndre Jordan (47 percent season, 44 percent career) if the situation presents itself tonight. Hopefully DeAndre will step up and nail his free throws as he did against OKC Wednesday, another game where the hacking-with-a-lead strategy failed this week.
  • Paul and Williams. Ever since they were picked third and fourth in the 2005 draft, Paul and Williams have been linked. As Steve Nash aged, the question was which of them would be given the title of best point guard in the NBA. Paul has more or less ended the debate on that subject over the last few seasons, but Williams is no slouch, and the one area where he has consistently bested Paul is head-to-head, where Williams' teams have won 13 of their 17 meetings including their only meeting since Paul's been a Clipper (Williams missed the game in L.A. last year).
  • The Kardashian boys. I hate to even mention it, but it's going to come up. This game features to power forwards who have married Kardashians. The Clippers' Lamar Odom is still with Khloe -- the Nets' Humphries marriage to Kim didn't work out as well. They filed for divorce just 72 days after their reality TV wedding, but apparently the divorce is still not final. So technically, Odom and Humphries are still brothers-in-law.
  • Humphries. Speaking of Humphries, over the years he's been something of a Clipper killer. He's averaged about 17/11 against the Clippers since becoming a Net.
  • Wallace and Stackhouse. Gerald Wallace and Jerry Stackhouse both sat out Brooklyn's loss in Oakland on Wednesday night. Wallace has only recently returned from a sprained ankle and the Nets didn't want him playing in a back-to-back and Stackhouse is just plain old. In fact, I had no idea that Stackhouse was still in the league until I saw him playing against the Lakers on Tuesday. Didn't he retire? Anyway, after a day off on Thursday both of them should be ready to go against the Clippers tonight.
  • Clippers small forward. The super deep Clippers are now thin at small forward if Caron Butler's strained shoulder continues to keep him out of the lineup. At least it won't matter nearly as much against the Nets as it did against the Thunder. Griffin and Odom can certainly guard Gerald Wallace. In fact, down the stretch don't be surprised to see Vinny Del Negro switch Barnes onto Joe Johnson, depending on what lineup the Nets use. Can Eric Bledsoe handle the 6'7 Johnson? Probably.
  • Nets record. The Nets are 6-4 on the season, but they have yet to beat a team with a winning record. The do have a decent win over the 6-6 Celtics, but other than that they've been getting fat on patsies so far this season.
  • Brook Lopez. Lopez signed a max deal this summer as part of the Nets spending spree, and he's responded with a terrific start to the season. He's making almost 56 percent from the field, mostly on face up jumpers (though I use the term jumper loosely with Lopez; he shoots more or less flat footed). He'll be a very difficult cover for DeAndre tonight -- Jordan will have to get out and challenge his 18 footer, without going for pump fakes and leaving himself open to the drive. It will be interesting as well on the other end to see if Lopez can handle Jordan's quickness and his new post up game.
  • Get the Nets perspective at Nets Daily.
  • Lyrical reference:

    10,000 Maniacs -- A Campfire Song

    A lie to say, "O my mountain
    has coal veins and beds to dig.
    500 men with axes and they all dig for me."

    A lie to say, "O my river
    where many fish do swim,
    half of the catch is mine when you haul your nets in."

    The album In My Tribe which featured this song is a really terrific album from the 80s. Listen for REM's Michael Stipe singing the counterpoint ("Something is out of reach...") in the middle section of the song.