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Clippers vs. Nets preview and game thread: A potential Finals foe?

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It’s hard not to be excited for this one.

Brooklyn Nets v LA Clippers Photo by Ryan Stetz/NBAE via Getty Images

The Clippers don’t usually look ahead on their schedule, but even Paul George betrayed some enthusiasm for this upcoming matchup after the team had dispatched with the Knicks Sunday.

“I think everyone is looking forward to that matchup, this ballclub and the world,” George said. “Should be a great showdown, great matchup. We just finished one, we will prepare for them tomorrow. But yeah, looking forward to that.”

In case you were wondering, Kawhi Leonard was stone-faced when broached with the subject. “It’s gonna be tough, but I’m not gonna think about that today,” he said.

Leonard might not be excited, but rest assured, the majority opinion falls in George’s camp for this contest between two potential contenders.


Game Information:

When: Tuesday, Feb. 2 at 4:30 p.m. PT

Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York

How to watch/listen: TNT, Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570 Radio

Opposing perspective: Nets Daily

Projected Starting Lineups:

Clippers: Reggie Jackson, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Nicolas Batum, Serge Ibaka

Nets: Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Joe Harris, Kevin Durant, DeAndre Jordan

Injuries:

Clippers: Patrick Beverley, Jay Scrubb — OUT

Nets: Nicolas Claxton, Spencer Dinwiddie, Iman Shumpert — OUT


The Clippers have yet to face an Eastern Conference contender; they get two this week as they are set to host the Celtics Friday, but first up are the Nets, arguably the most interesting team in basketball since they swung a blockbuster trade to acquire James Harden three weeks ago.

Brooklyn has been an offensive juggernaut since Harden joined forces with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. They’re second in the league in points per possession, per Cleaning the Glass, sitting one spot ahead of the Clippers, and have the eighth-best point differential despite featuring the 25th-ranked defense. Some of the Nets’ box scores look simply comical: they’ve scored 147, 146, 132, and 128 points in four of their last five games — all in regulation — and they didn’t even win one of those contests.

While Brooklyn is still figuring itself out, the Clippers are sitting pretty. Even though Leonard and George had to miss two games each last week due to health and safety protocols, the team really didn’t miss a beat. They lost one game to the Hawks, but rebounded against the Heat while still shorthanded, and then continued their road trip with comfortable victories against the Magic and the Knicks.

The Nets went all-in to create a historic offense with their star trio, but the Clippers are already there. LA has the best offense in the league over the course of the whole season, primarily due to the fact that the Clippers are shooting a sparkling 42.2 percent from 3-point range, including 51.5 percent from the corners. It might be tempting to wait for the Clippers to regress to the mean, but it seems unlikely given the bevy of open looks their drive-and-kick offense creates.

LA has also tightened things up defensively, though the Nets certainly present a stiffer test than any opponent the Clippers have seen recently, or at all. It would be a big loss if Nic Batum were unavailable to go given the desperate need for perimeter stoppers against a team like Brooklyn.

Whatever happens, this should be a fun game. The Nets are flammable on both ends of the floor, and they’ve been a part of a number of dramatic finishes since Harden joined the fray. Maybe it’s too early to think of the Nets as a potential Finals foe, but they’re certainly near the top of the class in the East. This is the first measuring stick the Clippers will have against that crew.

Notes:

  • Old friend Landry Shamet has had some difficulty in Brooklyn since being traded by the Clippers over the offseason. He had fallen out of the rotation altogether but perked up over the last two games with Durant sitting out of the first game and Harden the second. Perhaps seeing his old team will reignite the fire inside the third-year guard.
  • Another old friend DeAndre Jordan is an integral part of the rotation — the lone center on the roster — and even though his athleticism is declining, Jordan is shooting 81.6 percent from the floor. The lob threat is still very real.
  • The last time the Clippers played against Kevin Durant was in the 2019 playoffs when he dropped 50 points in Los Angeles in the closeout game, leading to an absolutely wonderful press conference moment with Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams. Lucky for the Clippers, they have better defensive options to throw at Durant now.