Clippers-Nets Preview

Kevin Garnett didn’t feel that facing his most recent former

team was too emotional because his coach wasn’t there.

Doc Rivers, now with the Los Angeles Clippers, didn’t feel the

same.

Rivers, Garnett and Paul Pierce continue an unusual three-day

stretch of reunions Thursday night when the visiting Clippers meet

the Brooklyn Nets.

Pierce and Garnett were the leading scorers for Rivers on the

2007-08 Boston Celtics team that captured the NBA title.

This stretch of reunions for this trio began Tuesday for Garnett

and Pierce with a 104-96 home victory over Boston in their first

game against the Celtics.

“Because Doc ain’t over there, it’s probably a little less

emotional,” Garnett said.

That means it will probably be more emotional for him Thursday

when Rivers comes to the borough one night after the coach guided

Los Angeles (15-8) to a 96-88 road win over the Celtics. Returning

to Boston clearly meant a lot to Rivers.

”It was just a really nice day,” said Rivers, choking back

tears in his postgame news conference. ”This is, it’s just such a

classy place here. … They cheer for their teams and they love

their athletes. The best decision I ever made was 10 years ago,

when I decided to come.”

Rivers will finally face Garnett and Pierce after both were out

in the Clippers’ 110-103 home win over the Nets on Nov. 16.

Brooklyn (7-14) was severely short-handed in that one, with Brook

Lopez and Deron Williams also injured.

All of those players are available now for first-year Nets coach

Jason Kidd since Williams returned Tuesday with 25 points after he

had missed nine straight games and 11 overall with a sprained left

ankle.

”He’s the head of the snake,” said Pierce, who also came back

Tuesday from a four-game absence due to a broken hand. ”I mean

he’s one of the most important pieces of what we’re trying to do

here, what we’re trying to build and trying to win a

championship.”

Williams’ presence figures to be critical as he renews his point

guard rivalry with Chris Paul, who had 12 points and 13 assists

against Brooklyn last month.

Williams was selected third overall in the 2005 draft and Paul

was picked fourth. Williams’ teams hold a 14-5 edge in their

previous matchups.

Their numbers are fairly even in those contests. Williams is

averaging 16.7 points and 8.5 assists, and Paul is averaging 16.4

and 9.2.

Another key matchup will be inside with Lopez going up against

Blake Griffin. Lopez is averaging 23.0 points and Griffin 14.8 in

four previous meetings, with the Nets winning three of them.

Brooklyn has won consecutive games for the first time thanks to

some defensive improvement. The Nets have allowed opponents to

shoot 42.5 percent in these contests after that figure was at 46.3

percent through 19 games.

“Obviously it’s only two games but when you look at the tape you

see guys with our new schemes, you’re starting to see a turnover

and those are positive signs,” Garnett said.

The Clippers improved to 3-2 on their seven-game trip as Paul

had 22 points and nine assists and reserve Jamal Crawford scored 21

on Wednesday.

Los Angeles has lost its last five on the road versus the

Nets.