The Brooklyn Nets are in need of a win and they will try to get one tonight in central Florida against the Dwight Howard-less Orlando Magic. As we all know, Orlando traded Dwight to the Lakers, and not the Nets, in the summer, and did not get back much in return. After getting off to a quick 2-0 start, Orlando has dropped 2 straight, including a blowout loss on Wednesday to Minnesota. The Nets are 1-2 after a come-from-behind loss to those Timberwolves and then a blowout loss in Miami on Wednesday.
Orlando is led by their key acquisition in the Dwight Howard trade, former Denver Nugget Aaron Afflalo. He is a good defender and 3-point shooter, but he will never be a superstar in this league. Glen Davis also provides some energy for this team. Other than those two players, this team is made up of rookies, young players, castaways, and journeymen. Nobody expects the Magic to contend for a playoff birth this season.
Brooklyn is definitely not yet in panic mode, but if they lose a few more games as they have lost the last two, they will be. In the last 5+ quarters, the Nets have been outscored by a total of 63 points need someone to spark the team. The offense has shut down over that time and the defense has not looked improved at all from last year. This game is a good opportunity for the Nets to get back on track and pick up a pretty easy win.
Injuries: The Magic will be missing three of their more talented players, Al Harrington, Jameer Nelson, and Hedo Turkoglu. This is a bad team and it will be even worse without those average NBA players. The Nets will be without Gerald Wallace again. He probably won’t play Sunday either. Josh Childress may make his Nets debut tonight. He is questionable going into the game.
Deron Williams vs. E’Twaun Moore. Advantage: Williams
E’Twaun Moore has had some nice games early on this season, averaging about 14 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists. Last season, his rookie season, he was in Boston where he was one of the last players off the bench. Now, he is a starter in Orlando. However, Deron Williams should be able to feast on him if he wants to. Deron is an all-star point guard coming off one of his worst games against Miami where he had 7 turnovers. Expect a nice game from Deron tonight.
Joe Johnson vs. Aaron Afflalo. Advantage: Johnson
Afflalo has also had a good start, averaging 17 ppg and 4.5 rpg. But I think this will be Joe Johnson’s first good game as a Net. He has been very disappointing to this point and he is due to have a breakout game. I think he should score somewhere between 20 and 25 points in this game and put the Magic away late in the fourth quarter if this is a close game.
Keith Bogans vs. Josh McRoberts. Advantage: Bogans
Neither of these players is going to have a major impact in the game. Both players are journeymen forwards who have never found a real home in the NBA. McRoberts was a Laker last year and did not make much of an impact on that team. He will be starting until Turkoglu comes back from his injury. Bogans is also starting in place of Gerald Wallace who is injured.
Kris Humphries vs. Glen Davis. Advantage: Tie
Humphries finally has a matchup against a guy he can guard. These players are very similar. Both play bigger than their height and are very good rebounders. I don’t expect the Nets to rely nearly as much on Humphries as they did against Miami on Wednesday.
Brook Lopez vs. Nikola Vucevic. Advantage: Lopez
Brook Lopez is due for a good game and I think he will have one against this second year center from Switzerland. Vucevic is not a bad player; he just is not developed yet. Brook Lopez is developed and I think he will score over 20 points tonight. This is also somewhat of a revenge game for Brook. The Magic did not think Brook was worth trading Dwight Howard for and Lopez should prove the Magic wrong tonight.
Prediction: Nets 104, Magic 94.
This will be one of those games where the Nets grab an early lead and the Magic just hang around the whole night. Brooklyn has no excuse to lose to a team of this caliber, especially when they are missing some of their more talented players. I expect the Nets to get back on track with a relatively easy win tonight. They will play Orlando again at home on Sunday in the second game of a home-and-home.