After their most impressive win of the season to date, the Brooklyn Nets (17-15) will now travel to our nation’s capital to face the last place Washington Wizards (4-26). Even though this is a road game for the Nets, it will seem a lot easier than their last game. They go from facing the team with the best record in the entire NBA to the team with the worst record. Since P.J. Carlesimo has taken over as head coach for Brooklyn, the Nets have won 3 of their 4 games including Wednesday’s 17-point win in Oklahoma City. Meanwhile, the Wizards have lost 3 straight games and have lost 12 of their past 13 games overall. Along with the worst record in the NBA, Washington also has the worst home record at only 3-12. Brooklyn is an above-average 6-8 on the road.
The Wizards have obviously been dreadful this season, but not in the ways you may expect. In fact, their defense has not been bad at all. They are only giving up 96.5 ppg, in the middle of the pack. However, offensively they’ve been clearly the worst in the NBA. Along with averaging under 89 ppg, they are also last in the NBA in points in the paint, field goal percentage, and points in both the 1st and 4th quarters. The Nets’ defense has looked lost at times this season, but Washington should help cure those problems.
The player to watch in this game is Nets bench forward/center Andray Blatche. This will be Blatche’s first game in Washington since the Wizards amnestied him in the offseason. Blatche played for the Wizards for 7 seasons and had some good, but mostly bad moments. By the end of his tenure in Washington, he was out of shape, unmotivated, and lazy and couldn’t get away from the franchise fast enough. The Wizards are still playing Blatche lots of money this year and expect Washington fans to boo him profusely. I expect this to fuel ‘Dray and I am anticipating a big game from him, especially if it is a blowout and he gets a lot of playing time. Blatche would like nothing more than to silence his Washington doubters.
Injuries: Kris Humphries injured his leg in the final moments of Brooklyn’s win over Oklahoma City on Wednesday. He is listed as day-to-day. If he does not play, expect Andray Blatche to get more minutes. C.J. Watson is also a game-time decision. Washington has lots of injuries, especially at the point guard position. John Wall has not yet played a game this year. A.J. Price, who got into a fight with Deron Williams in the preseason, has been out with a fractured right hand. Trevor Ariza and Trevor Booker are also out with injuries.
Deron Williams vs. Garrett Temple. Advantage: Williams
Deron Williams played so much better against Oklahoma City on Wednesday than he has in any other game this year. He will get a very favorable matchup tonight against Garrett Temple. Temple had not played in the NBA at all the last two seasons until the Wizards picked him up on December 26th. Since then, he has started 3 games and is averaging 6 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists per game. He has had problems with getting into foul trouble and is averaging almost 4 fouls per game. Shelvin Mack and Cartier Martin will also receive playing time at the point guard position.
Joe Johnson vs. Bradley Beal. Advantage: Johnson
Along with D-Will, Joe Johnson had his best game of the season against OKC. He should be able to have another great game tonight because he will not face much opposition. The rookie Bradley Beal gets the start for DC. Beal was the third pick in the draft last year and is averaging 12.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, and 2.5 apg. However, his shooting percentages have been awful. He is shooting 36% from the field and 29% from 3. He also plays very little defense and is an undersized shooting guard. Third year guard Jordan Crawford should also get plenty of playing time off the bench for Washington. Crawford has probably been the Wizards’ best offensive player this year and is averaging 16 points and 5 assists per game. However, he does not play much defense either.
Gerald Wallace vs. Martell Webster. Advantage: Wallace
Webster is a very average player and reminds me a lot of former Net Travis Outlaw. For the season he is averaging 9 points and 4 rebounds per game on 41% shooting. Wallace did not play especially well on Wednesday, but luckily the Nets did not need him. Chris Singleton will also receive some playing time at the small forward position.
Reggie Evans vs. Nene. Advantage: Nene
Reggie Evans started for the Nets in their last game because of matchups. We will see if Carlesimo chooses to stick with Evans in the starting lineup or go back to Keith Bogans tonight. Nene has been a disappointment for Washington. In only 18 games this year, he is averaging 13 points and 6 rebounds. He is also shooting well below his career field goal percentage. Although 49% from the field is not bad at all, Nene is a career 56% shooter, so there is a pretty big drop-off. Reggie Evans is a better rebounder than the 6’11 Nene. Kevin Seraphin will also receive playing time at power forward.
Brook Lopez vs. Emeka Okafor. Advantage: Lopez
Emeka Okafor has had a very disappointing career. After being selected with the second overall pick behind Dwight Howard in 2004, Okafor averaged 15 ppg and 11 rpg his rookie year. Since then, his production has dropped off nearly every year. This season he is averaging career lows in points and rebounds with 8 ppg and 7 rpg, while shooting only 45% from the field, his worst percentage since 2006. Expect another big game from Brook Lopez, who continues to show why he is arguably the best center in basketball. Against OKC, Lopez scored 25 points in only 29 minutes. Hopefully the Nets will win this game easily and Lopez won’t even have to play 29 minutes tonight.
Prediction: Nets 98, Wizards 84.
There is no reason why the Nets shouldn’t win this game. Against bad teams this year, the Nets have a very good record and I don’t see a reason why that should change tonight. Expect the Nets to be led by their Big 3 (Deron, JJ, Lopez) and put the game out of reach by the end of the first half. The Wizards might come back a bit in garbage time, but it won’t matter.