After probably playing their best game of the season on Saturday against Sacramento, the Brooklyn Nets (19-15) head down tonight to face the Philadelphia 76ers (15-20) on the road. Brooklyn is playing their best basketball since November and are 5-1 since P.J. Carlesimo has taken over the team. Philadelphia is heading in the opposite direction. The Sixers have only won 1 of their last 6 games and are finally coming home after a brutal 8-game road trip, which actually began in Brooklyn. Philadelphia has been especially bad its last two games, losing by a combined 47 points on the road against Oklahoma City and San Antonio.
This will be the second meeting of the season between these two teams. In the first game a few weeks ago, the Nets grinded out a 95-92 win with 6 players scoring in double figures, led by Joe Johnson’s 22 points. Jrue Holiday had 24 points and 9 assists for the Sixers. Since that game both teams have headed in opposite directions.
The Sixers’ biggest problem this year has been their offense. Philadelphia is only 28th in the NBA in offensive efficiency and they haven’t even scored 90 points in any of their last 3 games, all losses. For a young team like this, one would expect a quicker, more fire-powered team, but that has not been the case this year.
One big storyline in this game will be the Andray Blatche situation. Blatche was apparently questioned by Philadelphia police last night after being involved in a sexual harassment scandal. By all accounts, Blatche was not directly involved and will not be punished by the law, but this is still very concerning. This occurred at 4 AM on the night before Blatche was supposed to be playing in an NBA game. Why was he awake at 4 AM? Also, the girl who was apparently sexually harassed was highly intoxicated at the time of the incident. Why was Blatche around this woman at 4 AM the night before an NBA game? Even if Blatche was not involved in the harassment at all, this is still something to keep your eye on as Blatche moves forward. He is still expected to play in the game tonight.
Injuries: The Nets should have everybody healthy and they will be well-rested. Kris Humphries is expected to return for this game and come off the bench. It will be interesting to see how much playing time he gets under P.J. Carlesimo. Philadelphia is as healthy as they have been all season, but they still don’t have Andrew Bynum and it is unknown when he will return to the lineup.
Deron Williams vs. Jrue Holiday. Advantage: Holiday
The Sixers have not had a good season this year, but Holiday has definitely been a bright spot. He should be an all-star this year and is averaging career highs in points, rebounds, and assists with 18, 9, and 4. Deron Williams has played better since P.J. Carlesimo has taken over, but his numbers this year are still significantly worse than Holiday’s.
Joe Johnson vs. Jason Richardson. Advantage: Johnson
Jason Richardson isn’t what he once was when he averaged 23 ppg for the Warriors in 2006, but he is still a solid contributor to this team with 11 ppg and 4 rpg. He is not a great defender, but he is pretty big and Joe Johnson will not have a huge size advantage. Johnson had a good game the last time he played against Philadelphia.
Gerald Wallace vs. Evan Turner. Advantage: Wallace
After being selected with the second pick in the draft 3 years ago, Evan Turner had not lived up to expectations. This year he is starting to turn that around. He is averaging career highs 14 ppg, 7 rpg, and 4 apg and is shooting career high percentages from the field, foul line, and 3-point line. Luckily, Gerald Wallace is a very good defender so hopefully he will keep Turner in check today. Even though Turner’s overall numbers this year are better than before, he is in a slump now. In his last 7 games, he has only scored more than 13 points once. I don’t expect him to snap out of that funk against Wallace.
Reggie Evans vs. Thaddeus Young. Advantage: Young
Thaddeus Young can cause some matchup nightmares for the Nets. He is having a very good season and should be able to beat Reggie Evans consistently when he is on offense. The Nets have been interested in acquiring Young for a few years now and he always seems to play well against them. Earlier this year he had 18 points and 10 rebounds vs. Brooklyn.
Brook Lopez vs. Lavoy Allen. Advantage: Lopez
Brook Lopez should score at least 25 points tonight going up against two unimpressive centers in Lavoy Allen and Spencer Hawes. Lopez has had some time off and has only played 16 minutes of basketball since Saturday. He should be well-rested and I expect him to play over 30 minutes tonight if this is a close game. Expect Lopez to dominate Allen and Hawes on offense, and also get some blocks on defense.
Prediction: Nets 98, Sixers 90.
The Nets have had some time off and are playing pretty well right now. The Sixers are slumping and are still probably pretty tired after just finishing up a long road trip. This is a game that Brooklyn should be able to win pretty easily.