The Brooklyn Nets (12-9) return home to Barclays Center to face the Detroit Pistons (7-17) tonight at 7:30 pm. The Nets are coming off of a very ugly win at Toronto on Wednesday, which followed a 5-game losing streak. In the Pistons’ last 8 games, their only wins have come against Cleveland (twice). They are also 2-11 on the road, which is somehow only the fourth worst road record in the eastern conference.
The big story in this game for Nets fans is the possible return of Brook Lopez. Avery Johnson said this morning that the Nets center will play in one of the two games of this back-to-back. Tomorrow night the Nets will visit the Chicago Bulls.
I understand Avery’s caution here, but if Brook is ready to play, he should play both games. Now, part of me wants to see Lopez back on the court today, but another part of me would rather save him for tomorrow’s tougher game. The Nets should be able to beat a 2-11 road team in Brooklyn tonight without Brook Lopez, but Chicago has one of the best home crowds in the NBA. In past situations similar to this, we have to look at Jerry Stackhouse. He never plays in both games of a back-to-back because he is very old. He usually plays in the more important game of the two. Going by that logic, Brook won’t play tonight, but I have a feeling that Avery wants to get him on the court as soon as possible, so we will just have to wait and see what happens.
Let’s look at the Pistons a little bit. This team has a pretty talented young core of Brandon Knight, Greg Monroe, and Andre Drummond, but there are also a lot of old veterans on this team, like Tayshaun Prince, Jason Maxiell, Charlie Villanueva, and Corey Maggette. I’m not sure what the Pistons were trying to accomplish by assembling this team. They are clearly not going to the playoffs, so why bring in all these veterans?
Injuries: The big story in this game for the Nets is if Brook Lopez will return. I say there is a 70% chance that he plays tonight. Jerry Stackhouse will not play in either of the games this weekend because of a sore right knee. That means more playing time for Marshon Brooks, which is good news for Nets fans. Detroit has no significant injuries.
Deron Williams vs. Brandon Knight. Advantage: Williams
Brandon Knight has shown improvement in his second season in the NBA. This season he is averaging a very nice 15 ppg, 5 apg, and 4 rpg. He has scored 20 points or more in each of his last four games and I expect him to score that much again tonight. I thought that Deron Williams would come out of his shooting slump in Toronto, but he did not. He might be able to tonight at home as long as his wrist doesn’t continue to bother him.
Joe Johnson vs. Kyle Singler. Advantage: Johnson
After playing in Spain last year, Kyle Singler is a rookie for the Pistons this season. He has started for Detroit since mid-November and he has been getting much more playing time than most people thought. Still, he is only averaging 9 points and 3 rebounds on a bad Detroit team. Although Singler is 6’8, Joe Johnson is much stronger than Singler and Singler is not a good defender. I am predicting a big game for Johnson.
Gerald Wallace vs. Tayshaun Prince. Advantage: Wallace
I don’t understand how or why Tayshaun Prince is still on the Pistons. It is clearly time for him to move on. After winning a championship with the Pistons in 2004, all the players from that team have moved on except for Prince. I don’t know why he wants to stick around with a bad, inexperienced team when he could join a contender. He is averaging 13 points and 4 rebounds this season, his 11th with Detroit. Gerald Wallace has done a good job of getting to the free throw line recently. His problem has been that he is not making the free throws. He was 5-11 at the line on Wednesday.
Reggie Evans/Kris Humphries vs. Jason Maxiell. Advantage: Evans/Humphries
If Brook Lopez plays tonight, Kris Humphries will probably start and if Brook does not, Reggie Evans will start. Reggie had a season high 9 points in his last game while The Hump had a season high 9 free throws made. Jason Maxiell is another player that has been in Detroit for too long. Although he was not on their championship team, he has been there since 2005 and it is time for him to move on. He is surprisingly having the best season of his career this year, averaging 9 points and 7 rebounds. I am not really sure why he is a starter. The Pistons have better players on their bench.
Andray Blatche/Brook Lopez vs. Greg Monroe. Advantage: Blatche/Lopez
I talked about Brook Lopez above and I think he will probably play and start tonight. Greg Monroe is a pretty good, young center for the Pistons. He has averaged 15 points and 9 rebounds the past two seasons and he is probably the best player on this team. If Brook Lopez can’t play, the Nets may be in trouble. Monroe can hit mid-range jump shots and the Nets were burned by shots like that in their last game from the Raptors big men.
BONUS: Nets bench vs. Pistons bench. Advantage: Pistons bench
I don’t really understand Lawrence Frank’s choice of starters, and the bench may even be better than the starters. The Raptors have some of their best players coming off the bench, including Rodney Stuckey, Andre Drummond, Charlie Villanueva, and Corey Maggette. Drummond is one player I am very worried about. If Brook Lopez can’t play, I can see Drummond scoring as many as 20 points tonight even though he is only averaging 6 ppg. He is the kind of athletic big man that Blatche, Reggie, and The Hump can’t guard.
Prediction: Nets 93, Pistons 85.
This is the kind of home game that the Brooklyn Nets should and need to win. Detroit is 2-11 on the road and are not playing very well right now. Even if Brook Lopez cannot play, this should be a pretty easy win for the Nets.