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Preview: Clippers look for season sweep of lowly Nets

LAC has looked mediocre during a two-game skid, but a matchup with Brooklyn affords them a chance to reassert themselves.

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Los Angeles Clippers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Picture

On the heels of a blistering 14-2 start to the year, the Clips have stumbled over the last few days. They put forth a lackluster effort in a post-Thanksgiving loss in Detroit and followed that up with their most putrid showing in quite some time against the Pacers on Sunday evening. Their offense that had been humming a long has suddenly come screeching to a halt. The Clippers had just two more made shots than turnovers against Indiana, which should give you a pretty good idea of just how horrendous they were offensively.

We’re talking big picture here, though, and the fact is that a 14-4 record out of the gates is still about as strong a mark as anyone would’ve hoped prior to the season. Just two games separate them from the top spot again, and we’re only about a week away from the first Clippers-Warriors showdown of the year. There are a handful of other games about which to worry before then, though, including tonight’s tilt in Brooklyn with the Nets.

The question tonight is which version of the Clippers we’re going to see. One would imagine mustering just 70 points against a mediocre Pacers squad would be the wake-up call they need. They can’t really play worse tonight, right? They have looked tired and flat-out disinterested over the course of the last two games. With the Cavs looming on Thursday, avoiding a letdown against an undermanned Nets team is crucial.

The Bad Guys

Speaking of the Nets, they raised some eyebrows early on by notching four wins in their first nine games. Considering they were widely expected to be the worst team in the league, four wins from their first nine was a pleasant surprise. Things have taken a dark turn for them of late, though, as they haven’t won a game since that fourth victory. Brooklyn is riding a seven-game slide and now only the Sixers own a worse record in the East. Life comes at you fast.

Their point guard play has been problematic. Jeremy Lin will miss his 12th consecutive game tonight with a balky hamstring and there’s still no timetable for his return. He had been solid in his first five games since moving back to NYC, as he averaged 15 points along with six assists and nearly four boards on 45 percent shooting from the floor.

Without him, the Nets have been forced to run a slew of lesser players out there in Lin’s spot and hope for the best. Rookie Isaiah Whitehead has logged the majority of the minutes, with Yogi Ferrell serving as Whitehead’s backup and Sean Kilpatrick and Randy Foye masquerading as part-time point guards, too. None of it has gone well.

The Clippers saw banger-turned-marksman Marc Gasol just a few weeks back, and now they’ll get a glimpse of another transformed big man in Brook Lopez. Lopez has long remained a traditional low post big man while the rest of his seven-foot colleagues migrated out toward the perimeter, but he’s evidently seen the light this season.

He attempted a total of 31 three-pointers through his first nine years as a pro. This season, though, Brook has already jacked 76 triples and converted 28. His percentage of 36.8 is actually the second-best on the team, trailing fellow center Justin Hamilton (41.1). The stretchy bigs present a unique matchup for noted paint patroller DeAndre Jordan. Lopez sat out the game against the Clips in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago in order to rest.

That’s been one of the more noteworthy differences in the Nets as a whole in 2016-17. New head coach Kenny Atkinson has them running and gunning like never before. This club was a boring mess last year Lionel Hollins and Tony Brown. They finished 20th in pace and tried the fourth-fewest threes of any team in the league. Under Atkinson, they’re up to second in pace and only the Rockets and Warriors attempt more shots from long range. Sure, they’re only 25th in three-point percentage, but at least they’re trying!

The Fancy Table

Fun Facts

  • Brook Lopez and Marc Gasol took a combined 97 three-pointers through 1,056 games prior to this season. Through 30 total games in 2016-17, they’ve combined to make 51.
  • The Clippers hit just four of their 24 three-pointers against the Pacers, which was their worst single-game percentage from long range as a team since December 19, 2014, in a game against the Nuggets (16.7 percent).
  • It was also the first time the Clips had failed to crack the 80-point barrier during the Doc Rivers era.
  • LAC ranks seventh in forcing turnovers, while only the 76ers cough the ball up more frequently than the Nets. The Clips won the turnover battle 21-11 the last time these teams met, and if they do so again by a similarly wide margin they should be able to get back into the win column.
  • Brooklyn ranks second-worst in team rebound rate (47.4). Lopez’s newfound love of three-pointers has effectively killed his rebounding numbers. He’s grabbing just 5.1 boards per game to this point, which would be the lowest full season mark of his career.
  • After posting a double-double in seven of his first 10 games, Blake Griffin has accomplished the feat just once in the last eight. He put up 20 points with six boards and six assists in just 26 minutes of work the last time he faced the Nets.
  • J.J. Redick knocked down one of his five three-point tries against Indiana, extending his streak of games with a made three to a league-leading 74 straight contests.

Game Day Song of Choice

The Clips are in New York, which obviously means we’ve got a fair share of musical acts from which to choose. Jay-Z is in play, but that’s played out. Beastie Boys? Meh. The Ramones? No thanks. Let’s go with TV on the Radio. They’re good and all:

Ra Ra Riot is from Syracuse, but New York is New York. Close enough. It’s not like we’re working with a strict criteria with this thing, anyway:

The Clippers will look to end their two-game mini slide from Barclays Center at 4:30pm PT on Prime Ticket. Losing this game would probably be more embarrassing than putting up 70 on the Pacers, so let’s hope that doesn’t come to pass.