The Brooklyn Nets (26-18) will look to get back on track tonight as they return home to face the struggling Orlando Magic (14-29). After winning the first two games of their 4-game road trip and starting the month of January 10-1, Brooklyn has lost two games in a row in Memphis and Houston. Orlando, meanwhile, has only won 2 games in the month of January and they have lost 5 straight including a home loss to Detroit last night. This will be the second game of a back-to-back for the Magic, so they may look a little bit tired.
After trading away Dwight Howard in the offseason, the Magic knew that this would be a rebuilding year, which it has been. Orlando is among the worst in the NBA in many major categories including foul shots per game, rebounding, and total points.
These teams have already played 3 times this year with the Nets winning each matchup by an average score of 96-76, including a 107-68 Nets win back in November. The Nets are also still undefeated against under .500 teams this year, and Orlando definitely falls into that category. This game is especially important for the Nets because it will be the easiest game on this 4-game homestand for Brooklyn. The remaining 3 games are against Miami, Chicago, and the Lakers, and none of those games will be easy.
Injuries: Brooklyn should be healthy for this game. The only question mark will be Toko Shengelia, who suffered a concussion on Saturday playing in Springfield. Both he and Tyshawn Taylor will be back with the Nets for this game. Orlando will be without Al Harrington and Hedo Turkoglu, who have both played very sparingly this season.
Deron Williams vs. Jameer Nelson. Advantage: Williams
Even though the Nets and Magic have already played 3 games against each other this year, Jameer Nelson has yet to play in any of them. He is putting together a pretty nice season on a bad team, averaging 15 points, 7 assists, and 4 rebounds. He is a pretty good shooter and the Magic have looked to him in crunchtime situations this year. Deron Williams was ejected in the Houston game on Saturday after scoring 27 points to go with 11 assists. Hopefully he will use his size advantage against Nelson in this game.
Joe Johnson vs. J.J. Reddick. Advantage: Johnson
J.J. Reddick has been having a career year, which has also placed him on the trade block in Orlando. He is averaging career highs of 15 points, 4.4 assists, and 2.3 rebounds, while also shooting 40% from 3 and 90% from the foul line. The best way to guard him is to not give him any open looks, which will be Joe Johnson’s job. Johnson has had two straight bad games, which have both been Nets losses.
Gerald Wallace vs. Aaron Afflalo. Advantage: Afflalo
Afflalo is also averaging career highs with 17 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists in a much more elevated role this year than he had in Denver last year. However, Gerald Wallace is the Nets’ best 1-on-1 defender and he should be able to keep Afflalo in check tonight. Wallace has been invisible on offense this month and needs to come out of his slump.
Reggie Evans vs. Glen Davis. Advantage: Davis
Glen Davis is averaging 15 points and 7 rebounds this year but is a good matchup for Reggie Evans. He won’t leave the paint too far, which is where Reggie wants to stay.
Brook Lopez vs. Nikola Vucevic. Advantage: Lopez
Vucevic has been the surprise player in the Dwight Howard trade and he is averaging a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds this year while shooting 52% from the field. The key for Lopez tonight will be not allowing Vucevic to get any offensive rebounds for easy put-back layups. Vucevic is still young and not a great defender so Lopez should have no trouble scoring 20 points tonight.
Prediction: Nets 103, Magic 96.
This will be another “hanging around” type of game for Brooklyn. The Nets are clearly the far superior team and will not lose this game, but they have not been playing very well recently and won’t be able to blow Orlando out like they had done earlier in the season.