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Portland Trail Blazers at Brooklyn Nets Preview

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The Blazers kick off a seven-game road trip at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

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NBA: Chicago Bulls at Brooklyn Nets Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (34-23) at Brooklyn Nets (30-29)

Thursday, February 21 - 4:30 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Damian Lillard (questionable), Rodney Hood (probable)
Nets injuries: Spencer Dinwiddie (out), Jared Dudley (day-to-day)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Nets Daily

The Portland Trail Blazers resume play after the All-Star break in Brooklyn against the surprising Nets. The game is the first of a seven-game road trip that includes games in Philadelphia, Boston, and Toronto. Portland has lost their last two road games but went into All-Star weekend on a high note with a 129-107 home victory over the Golden State Warriors.

With 30 wins, the Nets have already surpassed their win total from each of the previous three seasons. Led by All-Star D’Angelo Russell and 3-point contest champion Joe Harris, Brooklyn is in the playoff hunt for the first time since 2015. Despite losing five of their last seven games heading into the All-Star break, the Nets are in the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.

What to watch for

  • Trail Blazers East. The Nets roster is loaded with recent Trail Blazers. Allen Crabbe is in his second season with the team and his performance is on par with what Blazer fans came to expect (for better or worse): 10.2 points per game on 40.5 percent 3-point shooting. His overall field goal percentage, however, is at 36.8 percent—the lowest since his rookie season. Ed Davis and Shabazz Napier joined Brooklyn this past offseason and have been solid contributors off the bench. With 8.6 rebounds and 5.9 points in 18.3 minutes per game, Davis is producing at a higher rate than he did in Portland. Napier is adding 9.8 points in 18.1 minutes off the bench, but is shooting below 40 percent from the field.
  • Scoring point guards. Both Portland and Brooklyn are led by their All-Star point guards. Damian Lillard is listed as questionable with a sprained left ankle, but he just played in Sunday’s All-Star game. Brooklyn’s D’Angelo Russell is finally showing the promise that made him the second overall pick in the 2015 draft. He’s putting up career highs of 20.3 points and 6.6 assist per game while shooting 37.2 percent beyond the arc. The 22-year-old has played better as the season has progressed, averaging 24.4 points per game since the calendar switched to 2019.
  • Enes Kanter’s debut. Portland’s newest acquisition is expected to make his Blazer debut on Thursday. Kanter averaged 14 points and 10.5 rebounds in 25.6 minutes per game for the New York Knicks this season. The eight-year veteran has had particular success against the Nets this season, averaging 22.3 points on 65.9 percent shooting and 13 rebounds in three games (two of which he started) against them. While it remains to be seen how coach Terry Stotts works him into the lineup, Kanter’s scoring and rebounding should provide a nice boost off the bench.

What they’re saying

New York Post’s Brian Lewis reports what Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson said the team needs to work on as they face a tough post-All-Star break schedule:

“I’ve seen some slippage in our defensive rebounding,” Atkinson said. “I remember earlier in the season, that was a huge problem in closing out games. We’re going to give our guys a heads-up.

“A big one continues to be turnovers. We’re 23rd in the league in turnover percentage. It really puts the brakes on us being a more efficient team, so we have to do a better job there. And we’re top 10 in getting to the rim. We’ve got to do a better job finishing when we get there. Those are big ones.”

Anthony Puccio of Nets Daily wrote about what Joe Harris’s 3-point contest win means for the Nets:

If you watch the Nets consistently, you were not the slightest bit surprised that Joe “Buckets” Harris is the 2019 three-point champ. Back in Brooklyn, he remains the poster boy for development. These things are appreciated for a specific reason. With their common goal, guys like [Spencer] Dinwiddie and Harris bettered the team, the culture ... and their individual games in the process.

This is Brooklyn’s biggest pitch to free agents going forward, and that’s why Joe Harris is so important: He epitomizes everything the Brooklyn Nets are.

Arjun Balaraman of Nothing but Nets looked at how D’Angelo Russell has gotten better at closing out games:

In the 23 clutch games Russell played in last season, the Nets were just 8-15 as he struggled to assert himself in late-game situations.

His decision-making was poor on many occasions last year, and Russell ended the campaign slashing a lowly 33.3/25.0/61.1 in clutch situations, with as many turnovers as assists.

But Russell has really emerged as the Nets go-to option in important situations over the course of their recent run.

Since Dec. 7, when the Nets held off Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors to end an eight-game losing streak and kick start the subsequent 20-6 stretch that has pushed them into playoff contention, Russell has been huge, slashing 55.6/40.0/76.9 and leading the Nets to a 9-3 clutch record over that stretch, while his field goals made and attempted increased.

Final note: The next time Portland plays the Nets will be on March 25 in Portland. That night just so happens to be Blazer’s Edge Night, and the window for donating tickets closes this week. Check out Dave Deckard’s article here for an example of how your donation can help. Here’s how to donate: