After another blowout win on Tuesday in Philadelphia, the Brooklyn Nets (20-15) return home to Barclays Center five games over .500 to face the struggling Phoenix Suns (12-25). Brooklyn has been playing very well recently and has won 4 straight games and 6 out of 7 since P.J. Carlesimo has taken over. Phoenix has been heading in the opposite direction. The Suns have lost 4 straight, all by at least 7 points, and have lost 10 of their past 11 games after getting off to a pretty good start this season.
The Nets are going to be a well-rested team. Since last Saturday, they have only played two games and they both were blowout wins where no starters needed to play in the fourth quarter. The Suns have a much different story. This will be their third game in four nights, all on the road, and all losses. Also, they will be in Chicago tomorrow night while the Nets will have tomorrow night off.
Phoenix has had problems at both sides of the floor this year, scoring under 96 ppg while giving up over 100 ppg. Also, their struggles this year have mainly been on the road. In fact, this team is 10-9 at home. However, on the road, they are only 2-16, the second-worst road record in the league. The only teams they have beaten on the road have been Charlotte and Cleveland, and both of those wins came in November. On the bright side for Phoenix, the Suns have won 5 straight games at the Nets, but they played all of those games with Steve Nash as their point guard and those games were all in New Jersey.
Injuries: The Nets have not been bitten by the injury bug this season and are as healthy as they have been all year. Kris Humphries is back in the lineup and Deron Williams has looked very healthy his last few games. The only question mark for this game is Jerry Stackhouse. Phoenix will be without Channing Frye, who has not played this season because of a heart problem. Phoenix is also very healthy.
Deron Williams vs. Goran Dragic. Advantage: Williams
Dragic has enjoyed the best season of his career this year, averaging 15 ppg and 6 apg while finally having full control at point guard over the team. Still, Deron Williams is clearly the far superior player. Dragic is not a great shooter and is only shooting 32% from 3 this year. D-Will had his best shooting game of the season on Tuesday in Philadelphia and has played much better since P.J. Carlesimo has taken over.
Joe Johnson vs. Jared Dudley. Advantage: Johnson
Dudley is a nice player to have, but he would not be a starter on a good team. This season he is averaging 12 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists while shooting 48% from the field and 38% from 3. His biggest strength is his ability to knock down open shots, so Joe Johnson will need to stick on him. Defensively, he is not an especially good player and hopefully Johnson will take advantage of Dudley’s lack of quickness.
Gerald Wallace vs. P.J. Tucker. Advantage: Wallace
P.J. Tucker has had a very interesting NBA career. After being a second round pick in 2006 (!) with Toronto, Tucker has been out of the NBA since his rookie year. This year he returned with Phoenix and has moved into the starting small forward position in Phoenix’s last 6 games. For the season he is averaging 5 points and 3 rebounds per game. He is a solid defender but won’t bring much to the offense. Phoenix does not have any great scorers on their roster, so expect Gerald Wallace to stay on Tucker.
Reggie Evans vs. Luis Scola. Advantage: Scola
Scola has been one of the more under-appreciated NBA players in the last five years. Houston surprisingly amnestied him in the offseason and he signed with Phoenix. This year he is averaging 13 ppg and 6 rpg. He is a pretty talented offensive player, but he is not a great rebounder or defender. Reggie Evans is coming off of a career high 23 rebounds against Philadelphia and I expect him to get at least 12 or 13 more rebounds tonight.
Brook Lopez vs. Marcin Gortat. Advantage: Lopez
After getting traded to Phoenix in 2011, Gortat has shown that he is a talented center and is an above-average scorer and rebounder. However, he got many easy looks with Steve Nash as his point guard last year so predictably, his numbers are a bit down this year. Still, he is averaging 12 ppg and 9 rpg while shooting 54% from the field. However, Gortat is not a great defender and Brook Lopez should be able to have another good game. The Nets didn’t need Brook on Tuesday and he hasn’t needed to play a full game since last Friday in Washington. If this game is close, expect Brook to log a lot of minutes and get some good production.
Prediction: Nets 107, Suns 88.
The Nets are really clicking right now, especially on offense where they have scored at least 109 points in four straight games. The Suns have only scored more than 81 points once during their 4-game losing streak and are clearly a tired team. I will be surprised if the Nets win by fewer than 10 points.