Andray Blatche and Gustavo Ayon
Tonight, the Brooklyn Nets will return to central Florida to face the Orlando Magic at 7 pm. The Nets (10-4) are on a 4-game winning streak and are coming off of two of the more impressive wins in franchise history by beating the Manhattan Knicks at home and the Boston Celtics on the road. This will be the final game of a 5-game homestand for the Magic (5-9). They have went 2-2 on the homestand so far, but have lost their last two games to Boston and San Antonio. Both teams are led by their backcourts: Deron Williams and Joe Johnson for Brooklyn and Jameer Nelson and Aaron Afflalo for Orlando.
This will be the third meeting between the two teams while still in the first month of the regular season. In the previous two meetings the Nets outscored Orlando 189-142, including a 39-point blowout win in Orlando. In those two games, the Magic only scored more than 20 points in 1 out of the 8 quarters the teams played. Since then, the Nets’ defense has only gotten better, so expect this to be a low-scoring game, at least for Orlando.
Although this game is not nearly as important to fans as some of the previous Nets games have been, this one still counts the same in the standings. If the Nets want to become one of the NBA’s elite teams, one of the things they will have to do consistently is beat bad teams, and Orlando is a bad, untalented team after losing Dwight Howard. The Nets have done a pretty good job against the sub-.500 teams this season, going 6-2 against teams that will likely finish the season with a losing record.
Injuries: Brooklyn will not have Brook Lopez for the remainder of this road trip. He will be re-evaluated on Monday and could return as soon as Tuesday against Oklahoma City. The Nets received no suspensions after the Rajon Rondo incident in Boston. Orlando still does not have Al Harrington and Hedo Turkoglu and it is unknown when they will return.
Deron Williams vs. Jameer Nelson. Advantage: Williams
Jameer Nelson did not play in the previous two Nets-Magic games this season. He was injured for both games. In the 8 games he has played this year, he is putting up very average point guard numbers: 13 points, 5.6 assists. Nelson is undersized at only 6’0 and we should see lots of post-ups from Deron Williams in this game.
Joe Johnson vs. Aaron Afflalo. Advantage: Johnson
These players are both putting up very similar numbers this year. Both are averaging exactly 15.4 ppg and are averaging between 2.5 and 4 rebounds and assists. Johnson is coming off one of his better games as a Net in Boston. He played well in the fourth quarter, including a very famous cross-over of Paul Pierce. Afflalo has been the best player for the Magic this season, but Johnson’s defense should be able to contain him.
Gerald Wallace vs. Maurice Harkless. Advantage: Wallace
Wallace did not play in either of the previous two Nets-Magic games. He is coming off of an ejection in Boston after picking up a technical during the brawl. Mo Harkless is a rookie out of St. John’s in New York. He was a mid-first round pick, but hasn’t done much to this point in his NBA career. Luckily for him, he will get plenty of opportunities to play on this bad Orlando team.
Kris Humphries vs. Glen Davis. Advantage: Davis
The Magic are going to need a big game from Davis if they want any chance of winning. He is a pretty good rebounder and has a knack for hitting difficult shots. He is averaging a career high 15 ppg this season. Kris Humphries also got ejected in the Boston game. He’s only scored 7 points combined in his last two games. Expect him to have a double-double with Brook Lopez out and more playing time for him.
Andray Blatche vs. Nikola Vucevic. Advantage: Blatche
Blatche will get his first start of the year tonight with Brook Lopez’s injury. I expect him to come out excited and very aggressive. Let’s hope he doesn’t get into any early foul trouble. When given playing time this season, Blatche has been able to score double-digit points and get a good amount of rebounds, too. He is coming off of his first double-double of the season and I would not be surprised to see him get another one tonight. Nikola Vucevic is not terrible, but is nothing special. He is also very young, so expect him to be fooled by Blatche’s many between-the-legs dribbles and multiple shot fakes.
Prediction: Nets 95, Magic 78.
This should be a very easy win for Brooklyn. Orlando hasn’t beaten a quality opponent since its first game of the season against Denver and the Nets are playing too well right now to lose to a team with as little talent as they have.