The Brooklyn Nets opened up Sunday’s game against Chicago with another new look, their 25th starting lineup of the season, as Blake Griffin became the 16th player to start a game for Brooklyn this year.
Griffin’s presence was also what made the opening lineup intriguing, pairing him with center LaMarcus Aldridge in the froncourt. The two players have joined the Nets within the last month — Aldridge made his debut on Thursday — bringing a range of perimeter skills to frontcout positions.
Their additions, along with the emergence of Nic Claxton and the impending return of Kevin Durant, have filled out a Brooklyn frontcourt that was thin not that long ago. There have been stretches of the season during Durant’s absence in which the Nets have regularly started four guards. So this was a departure.
“We experimented with a big lineup. It was very unlike us in one respect,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash. “I don't love it for us. Having said that, it's hard to judge it on one performance. I think some of it we experimented with because of the availability and matchups, but going forward, that's not something I think we'll see a ton of.”
Coming off the bench over his first five games with the Nets, Griffin’s timing in games had been fluid, but Claxton had been a regular frontcourt partner.
“Playing with both of those guys, both of those guys make the game easier,” said Griffin. “Obviously different players, but Nic’s energy is just unbelievable. He goes and gets to rebounds that he has no business getting. Can sit down and guard 1 through 5 and then does a great job of finishing. LaMarcus can obviously space the floor, block shots, just his IQ, the amount of basketball he’s played and the situations he’s seen allows his voice to really help a lot. I enjoy playing with both of those guys.”
There are 22 games left in the regular season for the Nets, whose identity has been largely defined by their ability to shapeshift through fluid availabilty and still compile a 34-16 record that has them in a race for the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
But with Griffin and Aldridge as new additions, with Durant having missed the last 22 games, with James Harden out for the last two, Nash will have some fine-tuning and decisions to make with rotations once he has his rull roster at his disposal.
“As far as the rotations, I think more than anything, it's about what to rule out,” said Nash before Sunday’s game. “And right now, I don't think we're necessarily at a stage where we're ruling rotations out. We're still just one, hamstrung by availability, and two, embracing the fact that that that lack of availability at times gives us a chance to look at different things. So I think we're still right in the middle of the process of figuring this out. And like I said, you can look at that negatively in that we haven't had a full roster to experiment with or to get our rotations and combinations set in stone. At the same time, we get different looks at different people and different guys will be ready to jump in, even if it's inconsistent and they've been able to succeed in that. So I think there are positives. However, it is…frankly we just haven't had everyone, so we don't know exactly how that affects all the rotations and combinations.”
GREEN HITS 21 AGAIN
Forward Jeff Green put up his second consecutive 21-point game on Sunday, making 4-of-6 3-pointers and shooting 7-of-12 overall against the Bulls. Four of Green’s five 20-point games this season have come over Brooklyn’s 13 games since the All-Star break.
For the season, Green is shooting a career-high 41.4 percent from 3-point range and a career-high 49.1 percent oveall. It’s the 13th NBA season for the 34-year-old.
“I’d love to say it’s my hard work that I’ve put into my craft and getting better at that aspect of the game,’ said Green. “Just putting in the work and preparing myself for the season with the personnel that we have. At the start of the season, it was Ky and KD. Knowing the attention that they brought, I knew that my job on offense was probably to set screens and knock down the open shots. I took that to heart and I worked my ass off to try and get better in that position, and when we added James, I knew it was gonna be more essential that I be able to knock down those shots. So I just been putting in the work. My teammates make it easier when I have a lot of time to get set up for the shot.”
Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Tyler Johnson, and Landry Shamet are all listed as out for Monday night's game against the Knicks. James Harden is not listed on the report after missing Brooklyn's last two games.
ABOUT THE KNICKS
The Knicks are 25-25 and in seventh place in the Eastern Conference. The Nets won each of the previous two meetings this season, 116-109 at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 13 and 117-112 at Barclays Center on March 15. The Knicks are fourth in the NBA in defensive rating (107.6), second in opponent effective field goal percentage (51.1), and first in both field goal percentage allowed (44.1) and 3-point percentage allowed (33.5). New York is 21st in offensive rating (109.0), 22nd in field goal percentage (45.1), 29th in 3-pointers attempted (29.3), 24th in 3-pointers made (11.0), and ninth in 3-point percentage (37.5). Julius Randle leads the Knicks in points (23.0), rebounds (10.7), and assists per game (5.8) and is shooting 41.6 percent from 3-point range. RJ Barrett averages 17.2 points 5.9 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game. Nerlens Noel is fourth in the NBA with 2.0 blocks per game.