Two days after defeating the league-leading Utah Jazz, the LA Clippers will welcome a yet another title contender to Staples Center in the form of the Brooklyn Nets, tipping off against the NBA’s newest superteam on Sunday at 5 p.m.
The Clippers came up short in their first matchup with the Nets back on Feb. 2, losing by a tight margin of 124-120. One factor to give LA fans hope that Sunday’s matchup will turn out differently is that All-Star Kevin Durant will not play, as he continues to recover from a strained right hamstring that has kept him sidelined for Brooklyn’s last three games. Durant gave the Clippers an easy 28 points in their last matchup, only missing two of his 13 shots to get there.
Without Durant, the focus shifts to the Nets’ other two superstars in James Harden and Kyrie Irving. Harden has fully integrated himself into the Nets system (or rather, the Nets have integrated into Harden’s system), and Irving recently acknowledged that Harden is the point guard and he is the shooting guard. The backcourt already looked fully formed in their last matchup with the Clippers, as Irving dropped 39 points and Harden tallied a 23-point, 12-rebound, 14-assist triple double. The duo is truly a handful, as both guards can score from essentially anywhere on the court and are surrounded by shooters that can make defenses pay for overcommitting.
The Clippers were missing Patrick Beverley in their first matchup, and he can make life difficult for one of these guards with his defensive tenacity and pest-like aggression. The Clippers also have a couple of stout wing defenders in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to throw at the Nets’ backcourt, but Head Coach Tyronn Lue normally tries to conserve his stars’ energy by not assigning them to opposing stars, at least until the fourth quarter.
The subtraction of Durant and the addition of Beverley might be just enough to swing the matchup in the Clippers’ favor. While this is the final regular-season matchup between these two teams, it’s not unrealistic to wonder if we might see them face off again down the road in a postseason setting.
How to Watch
Matchup: Brooklyn Nets (19-12) @ LA Clippers (22-9)
Date: Sunday, Feb. 21
Time: 5:00 p.m. PT
Venue: Staples Center
Broadcast Information: ESPN
Spread: Clippers -6.5
Moneyline: Clippers -255, Nets +210
Point Total: O/U 237
Odds courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook