DeMarcus Cousins and Brook Lopez
One night after Joe Johnson saved the Brooklyn Nets (18-15) with a buzzer-beater in double overtime in Washington, the Nets return home to face another bad team, the Sacramento Kings (13-20). Since P.J. Carlesimo has taken over for Avery Johnson, the Nets have a 4-1 record and have won two straight road games against Oklahoma City and Washington. The Kings have also been playing much better recently. Despite starting the season at 1-13 on the road, Sacramento has won its last two road games in Detroit and Toronto and has won 6 out of their last 10 overall. Don’t expect this game to be a cakewalk for Brooklyn.
These two teams have already played this season in Sacramento and the Nets will be going for the season sweep in this game. In the first matchup, the Nets were led by Andray Blatche, who scored 22 points on 11/12 shooting off the bench. However, the Nets had no answer for DeMarcus Cousins, who scored 29 points. Neither Blatche nor Brook Lopez was able to slow him down and he may have another big game tonight.
The Kings have been playing much better recently, mainly because of their shooting and offense. In their recent hot streak, Sacramento is in the top 10 in the NBA in field goal percentage, 3-point percentage, and free throw percentage. They have also won their last 5 games when scoring 100 points. The Nets’ defense looked very shaky in Washington last night and Sacramento may be able to score a lot in this game.
Injuries: For Brooklyn, Kris Humphries and C.J. Watson are game-time decisions. Watson has missed two straight games and Humphries didn’t play last night. Also, Jerry Stackhouse may get the night off after playing last night. Sacramento will be without Marcus Thornton, who has a sprained ankle. Tyreke Evans is also out with a sore knee.
Deron Williams vs. Isaiah Thomas. Advantage: Williams
Isaiah Thomas has recently return to the starting lineup for Sacramento and has been playing better since then. For the season, he is averaging 11 ppg and 3 apg, which are not great numbers for a starting point guard. He is only 5’9, so expect to see a lot of post-ups from the 6’3 Deron Williams tonight. Deron is coming off of a double-double and has played much better his last two games. Against smaller competition in Thomas and Aaron Brooks, expect another good game from Deron.
Joe Johnson vs. Francisco Garcia. Advantage: Johnson
Francisco Garcia has never been a great player but is now starting in place of Tyreke Evans. For the season he is only averaging 6 ppg and 1.5 rpg and will not make much of an impact in the game. The Kings don’t really have a player who can defend Joe Johnson and he should be able to score at will tonight.
Gerald Wallace vs. John Salmons. Advantage: Wallace
Salmons is a former 20 ppg scorer, but is definitely in the second half of his career. This season he is only averaging 9 ppg, 3 rpg, and 3 apg. Gerald Wallace has not made much of an impact offensively in quite a few games. He needs a breakout game.
Reggie Evans vs. Jason Thompson. Advantage: Thompson
Reggie Evans has struggled on defense in recent games and that may continue tonight. Jason Thompson is averaging 12 points and 8 rebounds this year and is averaging about 17 ppg in his last 4 games. He is also 6’11 and will have a height advantage over Reggie. Expect to see more of the Blatche-Lopez lineup tonight because the Kings are a pretty big team.
Brook Lopez vs. DeMarcus Cousins. Advantage: Cousins
This will be by far the most important matchup in this game. These two players may be the two best centers in the NBA. We all know what Lopez has done in the P.J. Carlesimo era. He continued that last night with 27 points and 13 rebounds. However, Cousins may even be playing better than Lopez. Even though he was suspended on three separate occasions this year, Cousins has put up incredible numbers in the five games since his last suspension. In that time, he has recorded double-doubles in every game, including one triple-double, culminating with last night’s 31 point-20 rebound performance in Toronto. Lopez had trouble guarding Emeka Okafor and Nene last night, so he may really struggle tonight. The key for Brook will be drawing fouls against Cousins or getting him frustrated. If Lopez can get Cousins into foul trouble, the Nets will be in a good position to win this game.
Prediction: Kings 101, Nets 98.
I did not like how the Nets played last night and after a double-overtime game, it is difficult to come back and give a full effort the next night. Brook Lopez played too many minutes last night and will probably be tired tonight, but DeMarcus Cousins will not care. I would not be surprised if Cousins scored 40 tonight. The Kings have been playing well on the road lately and I think they will find a way to win this game.