Tonight, the Nets will host the Utah Jazz at the Prudential Center in Devin Harris and Derrick Favors’s returns to New Jersey. In their first meeting this year, the Jazz blew out the Nets in New Jersey 107-94 behind 38 points from Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap combined. Deron Williams shot 3-15 in his return to Utah. This game was at the very beginning of the season in January, and both team’s situations have changed since then. The Nets have gotten much worse and the Jazz have gotten a little better, and they are contenders for a playoff spot in the western conference. When looking at the Jazz, one has to look at their home record vs. their road record. At home, they seem to be one of the best teams in the NBA with a 19-6 record. But on the road, they have a worse record than the Nets at 7-17. This will be another game where something has to give. The Nets will either win at home for just their 7th home victory of the season, or Utah will win on the road for the 8th time.
The Nets may be catching a break with this game. They did not play yesterday, while Utah had a 4 overtime game against Atlanta, and a long plane ride up to New Jersey. All of their starters played at least 49 minutes in the game, and some much more. Expect many of the Jazz players to be very tired tomorrow, while the Nets should come out with some fresh legs. Before the Hawks game, the Jazz were on a 6-game winning streak and are one of the hotter teams in the NBA right now. The Nets are coming off a win against Charlotte, but are still in a slump. I don’t think a team can get out of a slump against the Bobcats, they just delay it for one night.
Deron Williams vs. Devin Harris. Advantage: Williams
Devin Harris was one of my favorite players when he was with the Nets. He was not a good shooter, but was able to make shots when it counted. He was not a great scorer, but any given night he can explode for 30. I am excited to see him back in New Jersey and I am interested to see what the fan reaction might be to him. I’m expecting most people to not care. Deron Williams is obviously the better overall player here, but I don’t see him having a great game tonight. The point guard battle should be pretty even.
Marshon Brooks vs. Gordon Hayward. Advantage: Hayward
Marshon played a little better his last game, but still hasn’t been consistent. Hayward is a nice player who is surprisingly athletic and plays pretty good defense for someone of his size. I think Marshon will be surprised at how athletic Hayward is and will again take too many bad shots again.
Gerald Wallace vs. C.J. Miles. Advantage: Wallace
Wallace has been pretty good recently and had a nice game on Saturday against Charlotte. C.J. Miles is just a random Jazz player, who I have heard of, but really know nothing about. He might score 10 points, but he really doesn’t effect the outcome of the game. Raja Bell and Josh Howard are injured, so Wallace may have a good game. I will not be surprised if he scores 20.
Kris Humphries vs. Paul Millsap. Advantage: Push
These two are very similar players. Both love to rebound, and they score when necessary. Millsap might be a bit better offensively, but I think The Hump is better defensively. This should be a fun battle to watch tomorrow with plenty of pushing and shoving. Expect Shelden and Al Jefferson to be involved in this as well.
Shelden Williams vs. Al Jefferson. Advantage: Jefferson
This is not a great matchup for Shelden. Jefferson is not a bad shooter and I don’t think Shelden will want to come out and guard him. Also, Jefferson is much more athletic than Shelden and will beat him to the rim for layups. Shelden should still get his share of rebounds, maybe 8, but Jefferson could very well have a 20-10 game.
My bold prediction for this game is that the point guards, Deron Williams and Devin Harris, will both shoot under 40% from the field. I think they are both a little bit nervous about facing their old teams and just won’t shoot well. Deron hates shooting in the Prudential Center and Devin might feel the pressure coming from the crowd. Now on to my score prediction. The Jazz are very tired and are coming off of a very tough loss. The Nets are coming off of a home victory where they blew out their opponent. But it’s not going to matter. Utah is the better team and they will blow out the Nets, 104-87. The Nets will leave the court to a chorus of boos.