The Brooklyn Nets will try to improve to 7-0 against the Pacific Division when they visit the Los Angeles Clippers Sunday in a clash of NBA contenders.
The Nets have been a force offensively with the firepower of James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant leading the way. Brooklyn leads the league at 121.3 points and in shooting at 50.2 percent per game. The Nets were fourth in 3-pointers made (471) and second to the Clippers in 3-point percentage (40.9), entering Saturday.
Defensively, though, the Nets have struggled, ranking 28th entering Saturday's games in opponents' scoring at 117.3 per game. But they believe they are getting better.
"We know the defensive side of the ball we have to be more consistent with. I think we've gradually improved really since that Detroit game," Nets guard Joe Harris said, referring to Brooklyn's Feb. 9 loss, the team's last setback before compiling its current five-game winning streak.
"We've taken significant steps being a little bit more locked in, covering for one another, communication has been better and then we have the by-product now where we hold teams more in check," Harris said.
The Nets will try to keep the Clippers in check without Durant, who will miss his fourth consecutive contest with a strained hamstring. Durant sustained the injury Feb. 13 in a win over his former club, the Golden State Warriors.
Against the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday, Harden had 23 points and 11 assists and Harris scored 21 points with six 3-pointers as the Nets dominated 109-98.
Irving contributed 16 points and seven rebounds and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot scored 15 points by converting 5-of-8 3-pointers.
With Kawhi Leonard and Paul George back in the lineup, the Clippers ended the Utah Jazz's nine-game winning streak with a 116-112 victory on Friday. Leonard, who missed the previous three games with a lower leg contusion, had 29 points and Lou Williams added 19.
Patrick Beverley and Marcus Morris Sr. scored 17 points apiece, while George, who returned after sitting out seven games with a toe injury, finished with 15 points in just over 26 minutes.
"I thought they were pretty rusty handling the basketball," Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said of Leonard and George. "That's always going to happen when you sit out. But I love the way they competed. I thought their competitive spirit was great."
Beverley, though, believed Leonard and George were the difference against the Jazz, owners of the NBA's best record at 24-6 and winners of a 18-point romp over the Clippers on Wednesday.
"They [the Clippers] made the right plays down toward the end," Beverley said. "They didn't force anything, let the game come to them. The rest of the guys, we just kind of filled in where we fit like usual. Playing the No. 1 team, you've got to go out and beat them. They're not going to give it to you, and I think we came out with that mindset tonight, for sure."
The Nets captured the initial contest 124-120 over the Clippers on Feb. 2 at Brooklyn. Irving scored 39 points, Durant collected 28 points and nine rebounds and Harden contributed 23 points, 14 assists and 12 rebounds.
Leonard scored 33 points and George had 26 in defeat.