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Clippers-Nets preview: Keep It Rolling

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After going into San Antonio and beating the Spurs on a night that it didn't seem like it would be possible, the Clippers travel to Brooklyn to face the Nets and hopefully keep their good mojo going.

Harry How/Getty Images
2014/2015 NBA Regular Season
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33-15

18-28
February 2nd, 2015, 4:30 PM
Barclays Center (Brooklyn, New York)
Prime Ticket, YES, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown (2014-2015)
13-8 East 12-18
20-7 West 6-10
7-2 Division 5-5
20-7 Home 8-15
13-8 Road 10-13
11-12 .500+ 5-18
22-3 .500- 13-10
1-0 OT 1-3
8-2 L10 2-8
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Jarrett Jack
J.J. Redick SG Alan Anderson
Matt Barnes SF Joe Johnson
Blake Griffin PF Kevin Garnett
DeAndre Jordan C Mason Plumlee
Advanced Stats
96.24 (14th of 30) Pace 94.38 (25th of 30)
110.8 (1st of 30) ORtg 99.7 (24th of 30)
103.3 (15th of 30) DRtg 104.4 (20th of 30)
Injuries/Other

Deron Williams (Will Play) Ribs

Mirza Teletovic (Out) Chest

Clippers lead 2014-2015 season series over Nets; 1-0
Date
Venue
Final
Clips Nation Recap
ESPN Box Score
01/22/2015
Los Angeles
Clippers 123, Nets 84
Recap
Box Score

The Heroes
Since Christmas Day, the Clippers are 14-5 and have made up considerable ground in the Western Conference playoff race. Before that date, the Clippers were 19-10 and sixth in the West. As it currently stands, they're 33-15 and third in the conference. The team has really gelled during the last several weeks and their play on the court lends itself to that belief. They're third in Net Rating over that time to only the Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks. Their Defensive Efficiency, while still being middle of the pack, has picked itself up to 101.7, which is close to the 102.1 mark that finished seventh overall last year. So things are looking up on the whole. They just have to navigate to the All-Star Break with unwavering play.

The Adversary
From a pure collection of talent standpoint, the Brooklyn Nets should be a pretty good team -- even with guys like Deron Williams missing time and Kevin Garnett missing some games. Except they're 18-28 on the year and have been without Williams for the last eleven games and twelve of the last thirteen contests. In that time, the Nets have only beaten the Washington Wizards and Sacramento Kings. The team just isn't very good and seems to be peddling nowhere fast. Thanks to the horrific bottom half of the Eastern Conference, Brooklyn is only 1½ back of the Charlotte Hornets for the 8-seed and just one back in the loss column. They're also just two back in the loss column of the 7-seed Miami Heat. So, the Nets have a solid chance of still making the playoffs despite their struggles. Hooray for the East!

For More: Visit Nets Daily

F*** The Super Bowl
Just gonna get this out of the way and be done with it. The New England Patriots won that game, yes. But the Seattle Seahawks did even more to lose it. You have the league's premier redzone running back and you opt to throw on 2nd-and-Goal from the one-yard line? That's a fireable offense in my book. You had Marshawn Lynch and you refused to use him. The Seahawks were a mere handoff away from immortality and back-to-back Super Bowl championships -- and both would have come against sure-fire first ballot Hall of Fame quarterbacks -- and they simply chose not to hand it off. I don't understand it. This was far worse than the San Francisco 49ers not dialing up a running play on any of their final plays against the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII. The Seahawks had the game won until they decided they didn't want it anymore. There's no defending the playcall, even if the Patriots were in a goal line formation. You run it with Lynch and then you run it again and then you run it again on fourth down if you get there. That's your money man. That's your horse. You ride that Skittles eating stud until you can't ride him anymore. Jesus, man.

Comparison of Key Metrics
The Clippers are no stalwart organization on the defensive side of the ball this season but the Nets are worse. About 1.1 points per 100 possessions worse, in fact. On offense, the difference between the two sides is akin to going to a museum and seeing The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci and then walking down the hall to see a kid's finger-painting of a spaceship that's adorned in macaroni pieces. The Nets are horrible on offense but a lot of it is due to their philosophy. Brooklyn was a lot better on offense last year, posting a mark of 104.4 under Jason Kidd. This year they're at 99.7. Losing Paul Pierce has hurt them offensively, when it comes to efficiency. Their Defensive Efficiency last year was 104.9 and not much has changed this year, as it currently rests at 104.4. Injuries haven't helped, that's for certain, but they've been pretty bad all year. The Clippers are the better team when it comes to metrics but every game is different. They'll have to show it on the court like they did in the previous meeting.

Schedule
We're closing in on the halfway mark of the Grammy Trip. The team backed up their hard-fought win in Utah against the Jazz with a disappointing loss in New Orleans to the Pelicans. It seemed like all hope was lost going into San Antonio to face the mighty Spurs on the second night of a back-to-back. But, alas, the team banded together and won decisively. They're now 2-1 on the trip and a win against the Nets gives them a good chance at finishing with four and maybe five wins. They get two days off after this game before traveling to face the Cavaliers and Raptors on a back-to-back and then have to face the hot-and-cold Thunder and Mavericks to end the trip on a back-to-back. For the Nets, their schedule is pretty tough up to the All-Star Break. They play the Raptors on the road, the Knicks at home, the Wizards on the road on a back-to-back, and the finish up with a back-to-back at the Bucks and at the Grizzlies. They might walk out of their with two wins if things go well but you never know. It is the NBA after all.

X-Factor: Brook Lopez
Brook Lopez is coming off the bench for Brooklyn right now so he almost becomes the de facto x-factor here. He had 35 points, 12 rebounds, 3 steals, and 3 blocks in the thrilling overtime loss to the Raptors the other night and he's still one of the elite offensive big men in basketball. He's a respectable mid-range jump-shooter as he's making 40.2 percent of his shots from 16-to-24 feet this year. And he's hitting 51.0 percent of his shots from 8-to-16 feet. In a lot of ways, he's what Carlos Boozer is this year when it comes to shooting the ball but Lopez's post game is worlds better. Oddly enough, Lopez is actually shooting better from 8-to-16 feet and 16-to-24 feet than Marc Gasol is. He's dangerous offensively and the Clippers need to keep him somewhat contained in this game. They held him to just 4 points and 1 rebound in 24:23 during their meeting earlier this year when Lopez started. One special caveat is that Brook Lopez has failed to register back-to-back 20+ point games this year so the Clippers bigs need to make sure that doesn't happen in this game.

As The Rivers Flow, S1 | E9
Let's give it up for Austin Rivers, huh? In the last three games, he's poured in 33 points on 13-for-27 shooting in 54 minutes and is a cumulative +15 when he's been on the floor. Nothing has really rattled him, either. In those three games, he's outscored guys like Gordon Hayward, Anthony Davis, Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili. Okay, to be fair, Davis didn't actually play but still. Little Rivers ability to keep in front of his guy defensively, compete hard, and now make shots is such a massive help to the bench. His ability to drive to the hoop and draw defenders towards him is also a key attribute that the bench was sorely missing before his arrival. While Jamal Crawford was scoring 23 points off the bench during the last two games, Rivers was scoring 22. The bench needs that kind of impact. Sidenote: Spencer Hawes was really awesome last game. His play turned it around and the bench needed that kind of lift. The entire unit seems to be getting it together. It's great.

One Hollins is Like Another
So, let's talk Lionel Hollins for a minute. After helping get the Memphis Grizzlies to the Western Conference Finals back in 2013, Memphis decided not to renew his contract and went with Dave Joerger. There's little argument that Joerger has been a better choice than Hollins. Lionel took a year off and ultimately accepted the Nets job this past summer. It hasn't gone well. He still runs a really slow tempo with his teams and often looks lost on the sideline. Lionel often resembles fellow Hollins namesake Ryan when it comes to mannerisms and befuddlement. It's not that Lionel Hollins is terrible as a head coach, it's just that he's not good. The job is always way over his head and he often has no idea what to do with the personnel he's surrounded with. It took injuries to Blake Griffin and Russell Westbrook for Hollins to even reach the Western Conference Finals. Maybe that's not fair to throw at his feet but it happened and it's hard to say what would have happened had they not occurred. With his job in jeopardy, there's no telling when the tipping point will be. His job is said to be safe but it's the NBA and things change on a day to day basis.

Brooklyn Hates Rebounds
The Clippers have been in a weird stretch of games to start this trip where they played the two best offensive rebounding teams in the league -- Utah and New Orleans -- and then play two of the worst right after. The San Antonio Spurs rank 24th in the NBA in Offensive Rebound Rate (23.1) while the Brooklyn Nets rank 26th (22.9). The Clippers rank 27th (22.4), for anyone curious. Brooklyn just doesn't attack the offensive glass that much. And, in fact, the glass in general. For a team with big men, they simply lack the ability to rebound at a more than average rate. They're in a three way tie for the 23rd spot with the Phoenix Suns and Minnesota Timberwolves in Total Rebound Rate (48.7). They're also in a tie with the Cleveland Cavaliers for 20th in Defensive Rebound Rate (74.2), which goes to show you how much they struggle on the glass. Brook Lopez ranks 43rd out of the 49 centers in the NBA, who average at least 20 minutes per game, when it comes to Total Rebound Rate. His Defensive Rebound Rate ranks 45th. However, on the bright side, Kevin Garnett does rank first in the NBA among those 49 qualified players when it comes to Defensive Rebound Rate and 6th in Total Rebound Rate. The problem is that he only averages 21 minutes per game. Their other big, Mason Plumlee ranks 24th in Defensive Rebound Rate and 21st in Total Rebound Rate. He only plays just 23.2 minutes per game. So they have one really good rebounder who doesn't play much, one average rebounder who doesn't play much, and one poor rebounder who plays more than either one. It's a mixture for disaster and it showcases itself on a near nightly basis. The good thing for the Nets is that they'll have Garnett for this game and he did not play during their previous meeting.

Pressure Bursts Pipes
The Nets play a really slow tempo and don't force a high amount of turnovers. Because of this, they don't get out and run in transition. They're tied for the fourth fewest Points Off Turnovers per 100 possessions (14.8), post the fourth fewest Second Chance Points (11.9), and tied for fifth fewest Fast Break Points (10.4). Their opponents, when allowed to run, usually get out and do very well. The Nets have trouble scoring high numbers and have totaled the century mark in a game just 17 times this year. They're 12-5 when doing so. They're 3-15 when their opponents score 100 points, though. Brooklyn allows the fourth most Fast Break Points per 100 possessions (15.2). That benefits the Clippers in this matchup. In their prior meeting this year, the Clippers outscored the Nets 28-13 in Fast Break Points and the Clippers were +4 in Points Off Turnovers. No telling if this game will mirror that game when it comes to these two stats but anything close to this greatly benefits the Clippers once again.

Connections
Doc Rivers used to coach Kevin Garnett. Doc Rivers and Lionel Hollins each have a son named Austin, as well. Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson were teammates for two seasons with the Atlanta Hawks. Spencer Hawes and Brook Lopez played against each other twice in college as Washington and Stanford split the 2006-2007 season series. Jamal Crawford and Darius Morris both went to Michigan, Cory Jefferson and Ekpe Udoh both attended Baylor, and Duke is heavily represented in this game on both sides by Mason Plumlee, J.J. Redick, Austin Rivers, and Dahntay Jones. Jarrett Jack and Chris Paul played each other four times over two years in college as Georgia Tech and Wake Forest split the four contests, including an overtime thriller that saw Paul miss game-winners at the end of both regulation and overtime. Jack hit the free throws that ultimately won the game.

Wikipedia Entry
Nothing But Nets is a global, grassroots campaign of the United Nations Foundation to raise awareness and funding to fight malaria, a leading cause of death among children in Africa. The campaign aims to prevent malaria deaths by purchasing, distributing, and teaching the proper use of mosquito bed nets to end malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa. Brooklyn is the most populous of New York City's five boroughs, with about 2.6 million people. Brooklyn was an independent incorporated city until January 1, 1898. Brooklyn's official colors are blue and gold, not the black and white that the Nets basketball team currently uses. The Brooklyn motto is "Unity makes strength."

Prediction
107 94