This afternoon, the Brooklyn Nets will begin their 3-game California road trip with a game against the last place Sacramento Kings. Brooklyn, led by Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Brook Lopez, enters the game playing their best basketball since the Jason Kidd days and on a 4-game winning streak. Sacramento is going in the other direction. They have lost 4 straight games, including a blowout loss to the Atlanta Hawks at home on Friday night.
Let’s first look at the Brooklyn Nets. This franchise has not been in this position in a very long time. This is a game that the Nets should win, and we haven’t said that about any Nets game in the last five years. If they want to become an elite team in the NBA, they should be able to win a game like this against a very bad team easily. The big thing for the Nets is to play a complete, 4-quarter game. I expect them to jump out to a big lead in the first half. The question will be if they can maintain that 15+ point lead into the 3rd and 4th quarters. They have only done that once, against Orlando, this season, and they won that game by nearly 40 points. Don’t let your opponents back into games.
Sacramento’s only wins this year have come against two non-playoff teams in Golden State and Detroit. They currently have a 2-7 record and are last in the Western Conference. Although this team has some talented pieces, nearly all of their players are underperforming their talent and are underachieving. This team probably plays in the worst arena in the NBA and nobody wants to play for this franchise right now. The biggest issue for the franchise is not winning games; it is deciding if they will even be playing in Sacramento beyond this season. There have been rumors of the team moving to Seattle, Virginia, and Anaheim.
Injuries: Sacramento has no significant injuries. For Brooklyn, Gerald Wallace is a game-time decision. My guess is that he won’t play after missing the last six games.
Deron Williams vs. Isaiah Thomas. Advantage: Williams
Isaiah Thomas was selected with the very last pick of the 2011 draft. In his rookie season last year, Thomas surprised everyone by earning the starting job in Sacramento and playing very well. But still, he is only 5’9 and is averaging under 2 apg this year which is awful for a point guard. Deron has a big size advantage here and expect to see some posting up from him. He might have a 20-point, 10-assist game.
Joe Johnson vs. Tyreke Evans. Advantage: Johnson
Evans has been one of the most disappointing players in the last 3 or 4 years. After winning rookie of the year in 2010, Evans’s numbers have dropped off each year. He averaged over 20 ppg in his rookie season and this year he is not even averaging 12 ppg. His assists are also down from nearly 6 his rookie year to just over 3 this year. He has really struggled and he needs to get out of Sacramento. Johnson has been playing better in his last two games, especially in the fourth quarters. He should outplay Evans in this matchup.
Keith Bogans vs. James Johnson. Advantage: Neither
Gerald Wallace may play in this game, but I am guessing he won’t. Bogans has started in his place, but hasn’t made an impact in any of the games that he has played. He plays very few minutes in the second half. James Johnson has had a bad season. He is only averaging 6 points in over 24 minutes and is shooting under 32%. He is also 0-8 from 3 and only 63% from the free throw line. Neither of these players will make an impact on this game.
Kris Humphries vs. Jason Thompson. Advantage: Humphries
Thompson is not a bad player, but he really hasn’t improved much since his rookie season. He has averaged about 10 points and 7 rebounds per game throughout his career. Humphries has done better than that the last couple of seasons and is tougher than Thompson. He should be able to out-rebound him tonight.
Brook Lopez vs. DeMarcus Cousins. Advantage: Cousins
DeMarcus Cousins is very talented. There is no denying that. However, he still has an attitude problem and my guess is that he needs to get out of Sacramento and join a more competent team in order to play to his ability. However, he should have a big game tonight, maybe 30 points and 15 rebounds going against Brook Lopez. Lopez should also play well, though.
Prediction: Nets 118, Kings 103
This game will not be close. These two teams are heading in opposite directions and Sacramento is a mess right now. Brooklyn will score a lot of points in this game and should win easily.