The Brooklyn Nets (13-10) return home to Barclays Center tonight to face the Utah Jazz (13-12). The Nets are coming off of two very close games, a double-overtime home win against Detroit on Friday and a 1-point loss in Chicago on Saturday. This will be the first game of a 4-game road trip for Utah. They have won 4 of their last 6 games but have lost their last two to Phoenix and Memphis.
Utah has been a very bad road team this season and are 4-10 away from home, where they are an excellent 9-2. They are led by their big men: Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors, and Enes Kanter. There have been many rumors that at least one of those guys is on the trading block because they have a log jam at the position. Both Millsap and Jefferson have played well this season.
This will be a big game for Deron Williams because he is playing against his former team, the Utah Jazz. He had a difficult ending with the franchise two seasons ago, but is happy to be in Brooklyn. He has been in a shooting slump early on this season and it be interesting to see if he has extra motivation going up against his former team.
Injuries: Neither team has any significant injuries. Brook Lopez is back and healthy and may be on a minutes restriction tonight but it will be larger than the 24 minutes he has had the last two games. Jerry Stackhouse is still out with an injury but may play tomorrow against the Knicks.
Deron Williams vs. Mo Williams. Advantage: Deron
Mo Williams has had a pretty good season so far in Utah, averaging a career high 7 assists. He also hit a buzzer-beater recently against San Antonio. Deron Williams needs to step up his game. He will be playing against his former team tonight and hopefully that will motivate him to shoot better. There have been questions recently about whether Avery Johnson’s offensive system is bad for Deron. I don’t think it is bad for him at all. He just needs to get used to the style of play and he is still adjusting to his teammates. He will figure it out eventually, hopefully sooner rather than later.
Joe Johnson vs. Randy Foye. Advantage: Johnson
Foye will probably start, but Gordon Hayward will probably be more productive and get more minutes. However, Joe Johnson should play well on offense again tonight. He has a size advantage against both players and will hopefully look to post up a lot tonight. JJ has been an X-factor early on in the season for the Nets and they need him to play well tonight.
Gerald Wallace vs. Marvin Williams. Advantage: Wallace
Marvin Williams has been a disappointment in his NBA career after being selected ahead of Deron Williams and Chris Paul in the 2005 NBA draft. He can score 10 points a night, but won’t do much else. He is an average defender. Gerald Wallace has kept the Nets in a lot of games recently and his hustle should be more contagious for the rest of the team.
Reggie Evans vs. Paul Millsap. Advantage: Millsap
The Utah bigs are going to kill the Nets inside tonight. Paul Millsap is a great rebounder and he can also score, something that Reggie Evans can’t do. Even though Reggie is a great rebounder, he is going to need to work extra hard tonight to box out Millsap and Al Jefferson. Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries also need to prevent offensive rebounding from the Jazz big guys. The Nets have gotten burned by power forwards and centers recently and that might happen again tonight.
Brook Lopez vs. Al Jefferson. Advantage: Jefferson
This should be a fun matchup to watch. Jefferson is one of the premiere centers in the NBA and he is averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds this season. I think he is going to have a big game against Brook Lopez, maybe 25 points and 15 rebounds. The question will be if Brook can keep up with him on offense. Expect a nice game from Lopez as well as long as Avery Johnson plays him more than 24 minutes.
Another note from this game is that this will be the first time at Barclays Center for both Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. Both players could have been Brooklyn Nets, but were traded in the Deron Williams trade. Both come off the bench for Utah and have had up-and-down seasons. Favors is averaging 9 points and 7 rebounds while Kanter is averaging 7 points and 4 rebounds. Neither player has made a big impact in the NBA so far in their career, so Brooklyn should be happy with the trade they made to acquire Deron Williams.
Prediction: Nets 87, Jazz 81.
The Nets will win another low scoring, close, and ugly game in Brooklyn. Neither team will take a lead greater than 10 points in this game and the Nets will use their home court to their advantage. Utah has struggled on the road this season at 4-10 so this should be a victory for the Nets. They will ride Joe Johnson in the fourth quarter and pull away in the final moments.