8:30 PM EST, ABC – Line: Nets -4, Over/Under: 246
The MVPS are out tonight with former teammates renew acquaintances as the Golden State Warriors play host to the new-look Brooklyn Nets from Chase Center in San Francisco, California. Over the past decade, the most successful method of building a champion in the National Basketball Association has proven to be amassing multiple stars and the latest advocate of that method are the Nets (15-12, 3rd in Eastern Conference), who shocked the basketball world by putting together the league’s latest Big Three, as they engineered a blockbuster four-team trade with the Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, and Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for (2017-2018 MVP) James Harden (23.9 PTS, 46.5% FG, 35.4% 3FG, 7.0 REB, 11.0 AST, 1.0 STL, 0.8 BLK, 22.9 PER). Of course, Brooklyn paid a HEAVY price for the services of the three-time reigning scoring champion; Houston alone recouped a whopping four First Round Picks and four pick swaps from the Nets, who also shipped away much of their supporting cast, including (young Swingman) Caris LeVert and (promising Center) Jarrett Allen, along with the likes of Taurean Prince and Rodions Kurucs. Did the franchise gut it’s roster to get Harden? Absolutely. But did they pair him with (All-NBA talents) Kevin Durant (29.5 PTS, 52.9% FG, 44.9% 3FG, 7.4 REB, 5.2 AST, 0.8 STL, 1.4 BLK, 25.8 PER) and Kyrie Irving (27.9 PTS, 52.2% FG, 41.0%% 3FG, 4.6 REB, 5.9 AST, 1.0 STL, 0.8 BLK, 24.6 PER) in an effort to create arguably the most prolific attack in the NBA? You bet your ass they did? Since the trade (Head Coach) Steve Nash’s charges have exploded on the offensive end of the court, averaging a league-high 122.1 points per game on 50.3% shooting from the field, including 39.8% from beyond the arc, along with 27.2 assists in comparison to just 14.4 turnovers, while netting 20.0 free-throws on 23.6 attempts (84.8%). Furthermore, they’ve managed to top 120 points on EIGHT occasions, including back-to-back affairs of 145+ points. What’s been remarkable though is that this eruption has occurred with Durant, Harden, and Irving all on the hardwood at the same time for just seven of the last fourteen games. Irving was MIA for nearly a week, while Durant was pulled at Halftime of an affair with the Raptors due to the NBA’s Health/Safety Protocols, missing the last three games. However, Nash has recently stated that the 2103-2014 MVP has been cleared to return to action, and will be a “full-go” against his former employers. Of course, the ten-time All-Star spent three spectacular seasons with the Warriors, creating arguably the most dominant super-team in NBA history, advancing to three consecutive NBA Finals, winning a pair of Larry O’Brien trophies (2017 and 2018) before unfortunately tearing his Achilles during the 2019 Finals. He would then leave Golden State in Free Agency and sign with Brooklyn despite missing the entirety of his first year with the franchise rehabbing from said injury. Though this isn’t the first time that he’ll compete against his former teammates, he dropped twenty-two points in a 125-99 thrashing at Barclays Center in the Season Opener, it will mark his first trip back to San Francisco since his departure. His considerable offensive talents aside, the Nets will welcome back his presence on the defensive end just as much, for this has been the biggest downside since dealing so many pieces in the Harden deal; Brooklyn has been an absolute sieve over the last fourteen games, yielding 121.7 points per contest on 47.6% shooting from the field, including 36.1% from downtown, with 25.5 assists opposed to a scant 10.4 turnovers. At one point, they had relinquished 120+ points in seven consecutive games, which is just a game shy of the NBA record, with opponents having their way with them in the paint, where they have relinquished a league-high 53.0 points in that area of the court. Now, Harden and Irving have never been confused with being stout defenders preventing opponents from driving into the paint, while (veteran Center) DeAndre Jordan (7.0 PTS, 78.6% FG, 7.0 REB, 1.8 AST, 1.4 BLK, 16.5 PER) is really the only true big man left on the roster after losing Allen, and at this point of his career he’s much more of a name than a difference-maker and has been overmatched on a number of occasions during this stretch.
“We haven’t played defense like that pretty much the entire season, so it was definitely good to see us taking a step in the right direction.”Joe Harris on the Nets’ defensive performance in Wednesday’s 104-94 victory over the Pacers
When we last saw the Nets, they finally buckled down on the defensive end and snapped their three-game losing streak via a 104-94 victory over the Indiana Pacers at Barclays Center, which welcomed fans back to the stands for the first time this season. Brooklyn was clearly inspired by the limited crowd presence, which was relegated to just 10% due to COVID-19 regulations, jumping out to a huge 36-point lead in the First Half, permitting a scant 25.6% shooting from the field, including 4-of-16 from beyond the arc (25.0%) over the course of the first twenty-four minutes of action. Conversely, the hosts where stellar on 51.4% shooting from the floor, and though they were even with the visiting side from the perimeter (4-of-13), they owned an eighteen-point differential from the free-throw line, knocking down 22-of-26 singles (84.6%). Irving and Harden alone were 18-of-18 from the charity stripe in the First Half, combining for twenty-nine points which was just one shy of the total that Indiana managed as a team (30). This was a far cry from Tuesday’s embarrassing performance in which they allowed the Pistons to score THIRTY-EIGHT points in the First Quarter alone, Nash was clearly happy to see how his troops responded on the second leg of a back-to-back. Granted, the Pacers are far from an offensive juggernaut, but this is only the second time that the nets have managed to hold an opponent below 100 points since the Harden acquisition. In the end, the visitors shot a miserable 39.1% overall, but did cut into that deficit on the strength of 15-of-38 shooting from three (39.5%), outscoring the home side eighteen points in that regard. With that said, though Brooklyn didn’t burn down the house from the field, falling short of their lofty standards on 42.1% shooting, they absolutely planted their flag at the line, netting 31-of-35 attempts (88.6%) which lead to a commanding Plus-24 advantage. Irving finished with a game-high thirty-five points on 8-of-17 shooting (47.1%) along with four rebounds and eight assists, while Harden added nineteen points, five rebounds, and eleven assists despite committing more turnovers (5) than field goals (4). (Sharpshooting Forward) Joe Harris (14.8 PTS, 51.8% FG, 49.% 3FG, 3.5 REB, 2.0 AST, 0.5 STL, 14.5 PER) posted seventeen points, while the aforementioned Jordan totaled a dozen points and thirteen rebounds in the victory. On a side note, LeVert, who was traded to Indiana as part of that blockbuster, traveled with his new team to his old stomping grounds for the first time since being diagnosed with a cancerous growth on his kidney following the ensuing physical after the trade, and was presented with a touching video tribute by the Nets thanking him for his service with the franchise. The 26-year old spent the first five years of career with the club, showing steady improvement before exploding in the Bubble last season, averaging 25.0 points per game on 48.0% shooting along with 5.0 rebounds and 6.7 assists during that brief stay in Orlando.
Meanwhile, after years of wearing the distinction of being the super-team, the Warriors (14-12, 8th in Western Conference) have now found themselves on the opposite side of the curtain, as they look to keep their postseason dreams alive in the crowded Western Conference. At the moment, Seeds Four through Eight out West are separated by just two games in the standings, while a grand total of eight sides are competing within a 3.5-game range. As we touched upon earlier, Golden State largely dominated the Association from 2014-2019 in advancing to five consecutive NBA Finals, winning three NBA Championships as they put together a staggering .785 win percentage, including a historic 2015-2016 campaign in which they broke the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls’ single-season record for wins, finishing a ridiculous 73-9. As fate would have it, their dynasty would implode in it’s final days; the Dubs would lose the aforementioned Durant to a lower leg injury midway through the 2019 Playoffs, though nonetheless moved onto the NBA Finals, where the All-NBA Forward would return only to rupture his Achilles alongside (sharpshooting Guard) Klay Thompson, who tore his ACL in that same series with the Toronto Raptors. Of course, Durant would leave in Free Agency, and with Thompson missing all of the ensuing 2019-2020 campaign, the deck was indeed stacked against the team with (two-time MVP) Stephen Curry (30.0 PTS, 49.0% FG, 43.5% 3FG, 5.5 REB, 5.9 AST, 1.3 STL, 25.8 PER) relegated to just five games due to a broken hand. Needless to say, Steve Kerr’s charges flatlined last season without a triumvirate of stars that accounted for a whopping 74.3 points per game en route to a league-low fifteen wins, setting up what was supposed to be their revenge tour. Unfortunately it simply wasn’t meant to be as Thompson would tear his Achilles during a pickup game in the (abridged) offseason ending his own personal comeback before it ever begin, leaving the Warriors in a precarious position in the West: fighting for their lives. With defenses able to key on him like never before, Curry has had to work for every inch of space like never before but he’s been unsurprisingly up to the task; the 32-year old has caught fire over the last seven contests, averaging 36.4 points on a scorching 57.7% from the field and 52.7% from beyond the arc, along with 5.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists, dropping fifty-seven points in a narrow 134-132 loss at the Dallas Mavericks last week. It’s been remarkable to see him perform with the current supporting cast around him, a group of disparate parts who seldom look like the well-oiled machine that Golden State was for half a decade. With that said, (2014 No. One Overall Pick) Andrew Wiggins (17.6 PTS, 46.9% FG, 37.4% 3FG, 4.7 REB, 2.2 AST, 0.6 STL, 1.3 BLK, 14.5 PER) is quietly enjoying the most efficient season of his career, posting career-highs in field goal percentage (46.9%), two-point percentage (52.1%), and three-point percentage (37.4%), while (journeyman) Kelly Oubre (13.8 PTS, 40.1% FG, 30.0% 3FG, 5.8 REB, 1.4 AST, 1.0 STL, 0.8 BLK, 11.8 PER) has overachieved in Thompson’s role. And then there is 2020 No. Two Overall Pick, James Wiseman (12.2 PTS, 50.3% FG, 40.9% 3FG, 6.1 REB, 0.7 AST, 1.3 BLK, 15.1 PER), who couldn’t have found a better landing spot than with a club where he’ll be able to grow at his own rate around so many veterans that have already enjoyed such outrageous success. With that said, Golden State will no doubt miss his presence tonight against the Nets, who have struggled so much in defending the paint, with the rookie set to miss 7-10 days with a sprained left wrist. When these teams met back in the Season Opener, the Warriors were outscored 40-25 in the First Quarter on their way to 26-point debacle, as Curry could muster just twenty points on a disappointing 7-of-21 shooting (33.3%), including just 2-of-10 from the perimeter (20.0%).
“It is routine, which is the crazy part of it. You just come to expect it. These 3s that he hits when there’s nothing there offensively and he just uses his dribble to free himself up, not exactly with a ton of space just a few inches of space, then he rises up and you expect every one of them to go in, it’s just crazy.”Steve Kerr on Stephen Curry’s
When we last saw the Warriors, they won their second consecutive outing following a two-game skid as they outlasted the Orlando Magic in a 111-105 victory from Chase Center. The hosts started off strongly, outscoring the visitors 29-19 in the First Quarter with the home side knocking down 7-of-18 from beyond the arc (38.9%), four of them coming courtesy of Curry, who totaled a dozen points in the period. Orlando would turn the tide though in the second frame, outscoring hosts 36-18, shooting 11-of-21 from the floor (52.4%), including 5-of-10 from downtown (50.0%), and 9-of-10 from the free-throw line (90.0%). Trailing 55-47 at Halftime, Kerr’s troops would retake control of the affair in the Second Half, shooting 55.8% overall, including 9-of-20 from three (45.0%), while limiting the visiting side to a dismal 36.5% shooting with more turnovers (9) than assists (6). The difference in this contest proved to be the money ball, with Golden State drilling 20-of-50 three-pointers (40.0%), attempting a franchise-record THIRTY in the First Half alone, with Curry putting on yet another clinic; the six-time All-Star finished a torrid 10-of-19 from long-range (52.6%) en route to forty points along with eight rebounds, five assists, and four steals, extending his own personal record to thirteen consecutive games with at least four made three-pointers and logging the seventeenth such outing in which he’s knocked down at least ten treys in a single game. Furthermore, he has now scored thirty or more in four games in a row, and in reaching that threshold tonight can match his personal record of five, set back in 2016. As for the rest of the team, Wiggins continued to fly under the radar with twenty-one points on 8-of-13 shooting (61.5%), including 2-of-5 from three (40.0%), along with seven rebounds and three assists and blocks apiece, while Oubre chipped in with seventeen points on 6-of-12 shooting (50.0%), including 3-of-7 from deep (42.9%), ten rebounds and four assists. (Veteran Forward) Draymond Green (5.1 PTS, 35.3% FG, 19.0% 3FG, 5.5 REB, 8.0 AST, 1.4 STL, 0.5 BLK, 9.4 PER) made his presence felt in a variety of ways as well, totaling eight points, six rebounds, and a team-high elven assists, along with a steal and a pair of blocks. Three-point shooting aside, this contest also saw the Warriors clamp down on the defensive end, which was certainly easier to do given the injury situation with the Magic; Orlando was without four members of their rotation and lost (Guard) Frank Mason early in the game, shooting just 39.2% from the field, with nineteen assists in comparison to fifteen turnovers, which the hosts turned into twenty-four points going the other way.