The Nets will look for their 4th straight home win Tuesday night when the Philadelphia 76ers come to town for the first time this season. The Nets still have 3 games with the Sixers left on their schedule including 2 straight on Tuesday and Friday.
In the teams’ first matchup of the season, the Sixers were one of the best teams in the NBA, especially at home, but the Nets went to Philly and beat the Sixers 97-90 in overtime behind 34 points and 11 assists from Deron Williams. It was a very out-of-nowhere game as the Sixers had been playing so well and the Nets had been playing so badly, but right now the teams are in totally different places than they were then.
The Sixers are a team that is very much in trouble. For almost the entire season, they were leading the Atlantic Division, which would guarantee them home-court advantage in the first round. Right now, they are just hoping to make the playoffs. They have really fallen apart recently. They lost the division lead to Boston a week or two ago and are now tied with New York for the 7th playoff spot. The Milwaukee Bucks are only 1 1/2 games behind them, and if the Bucks pass the Sixers, Philly will not make the playoffs. They really have no excuse for this collapse, but luckily for them they will be facing the Nets in 3 of their last 10 games, so they still have a good shot at the playoffs. They have only won 4 of their last 14 games including puzzling blowout losses to Toronto and Washington. Even though this game does not matter at all for the Nets, it is very important for Philadelphia.
Speaking of the Nets, they are playing very well right now. They have won 5 of their last 7 (wow!) and 3 straight at home for the first time this season. They beat the Cavs in overtime on Sunday, even though they probably should have won that game in regulation. I’ll take it. One question they have going into this game is the health of Gerald Wallace, who injured his foot after dunking in the Cavaliers game. The injury really didn’t look that bad and I have a feeling he will be playing in this game. The question is how effective he will be. This will also be the first Nets game for Armon Johnson. I know nothing about the guy, so I hope Avery gives him Sundiata’s minutes so that I can check him out and see what he’s all about.
Deron Williams vs. Jrue Holiday. Advantage: Williams
Jrue Holiday is the leading scorer among the starters for the Sixers, but is still only averaging 13 ppg and D-Will is clearly better. Also, Holiday’s 4 apg are very low for a point guard. Holiday has had some very poor shooting performances in the past and I would not be surprised to see one in this game in Newark. Deron has been playing very well lately and is distributing the ball well. I expect him to have about a 20-10 game, which is what Net fans should expect from him on a nightly basis.
Marshon Brooks vs. Evan Turner. Advantage: Push
After a pretty terrible rookie year seeing that he was the college player of the year and the #2 pick in the draft, Evan Turner is proving that he is not a total bust this year. He is still averaging under 10 ppg, but his 6 rpg is solid, especially for a guard. Marshon appears to be emerging from his slump (fingers crossed) and will hopefully continue his improved play in this game. These two guys are pretty similar players and they shouldn’t have much of an impact on the outcome of this game.
Gerald Wallace (?) vs. Andre Iguodala. Advantage: Iguodala (?)
Andre Iguodala is what I call a mini-Lebron. This means that he is a very well-rounded player-getting points, assists, rebounds, and making good defensive plays. However, he is a MINI-Lebron and not a full-size Lebron, meaning he won’t score 22 points in the first quarter like Lebron did earlier in the year against the Nets. Iguodala also was an eastern conference all-star this year, but that is partially because the Sixers were one of the best teams at the all-star break and the NBA wanted to give them some credit by selecting Iguodala to the team. His numbers really don’t back it up and he is only averaging 12 ppg. There are plenty of questions that surround Wallace’s health right now and there hasn’t been word today on his injury. I hope he plays at full strength, but if he is not at full strength, he will have his hands full with Iguodala. Wallace is the X-factor in this game.
Kris Humphries vs. Elton Brand. Advantage: Humphries
Elton Brand’s glory days are long behind him and he is averaging under 11 ppg this year. He is old, slow, and fat, which is good news for The Hump. I think this is a very good matchup for Humphries, who could have a 15-15 game. Humphries really does not get enough credit. He averages a consistent double-double, and not many NBA players can do that. His hustle on the glass is excellent and he has really improved his offensive game since coming to New Jersey. He is definitely a bright spot in this gloomy season.
Shelden Williams vs. Spencer Hawes. Advantage: Hawes
This will be a very boring matchup and not much will happen here. Hawes is an average center and Shelden is serviceable. Neither will make a big impact on this game. However, I am excited to see Shelden don his goggles for the second straight game. Shelden has been tackled way too much recently and I hope Hawes doesn’t injure him in this game.
BONUS: Gerald Green vs. Lou Williams. Advantage: ???
I don’t usually talk about the bench in my previews, but I think it is necessary tonight because Lou Williams is the leading scorer for Philadelphia and Gerald Green could very well lead the Nets in scoring tonight as he did on Sunday. In his first meeting with the Nets this season, Williams (impossible: a Williams that is not on the Nets??) led the team with 17 points including a ton of big shots in the fourth quarter. He is kind of a Nets killer and may have another big game here. Green did not play in that game as he was still in the D-League, but he scored a season high 32 points in the Cavs game and has been playing very well since his call-up. We may witness a game decided by the bench. That’s so Nets.
My bold prediction for this game is that, as I just said, the game will be decided by the bench. For the Nets, it will be Anthony Morrow and Gerald Green and for the Sixers it will be Lou Williams, Jodie Meeks, and Nikola Vucevic. Whichever team has a better bench will win this game. I am predicting that that team will be the Sixers, who are very desperate for this win. They have to take advantage of these three games with the Nets down the stretch, and will snap their four-game losing streak and win in Newark by a score of 95-91.