Less than 24 hours after a home win over the Raptors, the Brooklyn Nets (23-15) will head down south to face the struggling Atlanta Hawks (21-16) Wednesday night. The Nets have won 7 games in a row after last night’s 7-point win and are 9-1 under P.J. Carlesimo. The Hawks are going in the opposite direction. After sitting in the #3 seed in the east for most of the season, the Hawks have struggled mightily lately and have lost 6 of their last 7 games, dropping them to #6 in the east. With a win tonight and a loss by Indiana, the Nets will move to #3 and only 1 game behind Miami if the Heat lose to Golden State.
In Atlanta’s last game, they got completely embarrassed in Chicago. The team scored a total of 58 points, their least since moving to Atlanta. They only scored 20 points in the entire first half and only 5 points in the second quarter. After a very strong start to the season, they are not playing well at all right now.
The Nets might be hurt in this game from tired legs. After last night’s win, P.J. Carlesimo said that he was upset that he had to play Deron Williams and Joe Johnson so many minutes. P.J. will try to rest them as much as possible tonight and hopefully that won’t hurt the play of the team.
This will be a reunion game for many of these players. Atlanta has Anthony Morrow, Deshawn Stevenson, and Johan Petro, who were all Nets last year. The Hawks also have Devin Harris, a former New Jersey Nets all-star. The Nets acquired Joe Johnson from Atlanta in the offseason and this will be his first game in Atlanta since.
Injuries: For Atlanta, 2 former Nets, Anthony Morrow and Deshawn Stevenson have had nagging injuries this year and probably won’t play in this game. Also, Josh Smith was suspended this morning for something he did in a Hawks practice. He will probably be back for the second game of this home-and-home on Friday. The rest of the team should be healthy. For Brooklyn, Gerald Wallace is a game time decision but my guess is that he won’t play.
Deron Williams vs. Jeff Teague. Advantage: Williams
Teague has had a pretty good season, but has been inconsistent in January. In 8 games this month, he has only scored in double figures 3 times and he has not recorded a 10-assist game yet this month. Deron Williams is finally showing more consistency and hasn’t had a bad game during the Nets’ 7-game winning streak. As long as Deron isn’t tired tonight, expect him to play well again.
Joe Johnson vs. Devin Harris. Advantage: Johnson
Joe Johnson is the story in this game for Atlanta fans. He played in Atlanta for 7 years and made 6 all-star teams. More importantly, he really revived the franchise. In his 7 years in Atlanta, he led the team to the playoffs in each of his last 5 seasons. When he arrived in Atlanta, they were probably the worst team in the NBA. I will be interested to see how Hawks fans react to Johnson’s introduction. I’m expecting a mix of cheers and boos, but he deserves to get mostly cheers. Atlanta will likely start former New Jersey Net Devin Harris at the shooting guard. Harris had the best years of his career with the Nets and is now 30 years old and is clearly in the second half of his career. He is only averaging 8 ppg this season after averaging over 21 with the 2009 Nets. Lou Williams will also get a lot of minutes. He is averaging 15 ppg off the bench for Atlanta and has been known to kill the Nets during his time in Philadelphia.
Keith Bogans vs. Kyle Korver. Advantage: Korver
Keith Bogans will probably get the start again if Gerald Wallace can’t go. Korver is an excellent 3-point shooter but won’t do much else. This season he is shooting 44% from 3 and averaging 10 ppg. He has been a starter for Atlanta this whole season. Bogans is a smart player and he knows to just stick to Korver and not leave him wide open for a 3.
Reggie Evans vs. Zaza Pachulia. Advantage: Evans
This is definitely my favorite matchup of the game. Pachulia will probably be starting for the suspended Josh Smith. Both these players like to rebound and are very dirty. Pachulia has come off the bench this year for the Hawks but tonight he will get the opportunity to start. Reggie has been the Nets’ best rebounder all season.
Brook Lopez vs. Al Horford. Advantage: Lopez
Al Horford has been healthy all season long for Atlanta and the Hawks have been happy with his production. He is averaging 15 ppg and 10 rpg and is shooting 53% from the field. These two guys might be the best two centers in the eastern conference so this should be pretty fun to watch. Both are capable jump shooters and above average defenders. Because of Josh Smith’s suspension, former Net Johan Petro might even get some playing time.
Prediction: Nets 102, Hawks 85.
The loss of Josh Smith really hurts the Hawks in this game. For them to have any chance, they will need a huge performance from Lou Williams, who has had big games against the Nets in the past. The only other way the Nets lose is if they are tired playing their third game in four nights, but Brooklyn is focused right now and Atlanta is playing very poorly. The Nets should win this game.