With the All-Star break behind them and the trade deadline looming, the Brooklyn Nets (31-22) will be back on the court for a home-and-home with the Milwaukee Bucks (26-25) beginning at Barclays Center tonight. Both teams have been involved with lots of trade rumors recently. For Milwaukee, many of their big pieces are involved in the rumors: Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, Ersan Ilyasova, and also expiring contracts and draft picks. The Nets’ are mainly focusing right now on Josh Smith. We shall see if these rumors effect how either team plays in these two games.
The 8th place Bucks have been very inconsistent all season. Most recently, they have played poorly, losing 6 of their past 8 games before the all-star break, but they have had time to recover since then. The Nets, who were without Deron Williams recently, won their last 2 games before the break against Indiana and Denver, although they have also not been great in February. Between the two teams, only Brook Lopez of the Nets participated in all-star weekend, so most players should be very well rested.
The Nets are 0-2 against the Bucks this season, and neither loss was very close. However, both those games were in December, one of the worst months in team history, and that was also when the Bucks were playing at their best. Their second loss to Milwaukee was Avery Johnson’s last game as coach of Brooklyn. The teams have went in opposite directions since then and now the Nets are sitting at 4th in the east and only 2.5 games behind Manhattan for first place in the Atlantic.
Injuries: The Nets will have all their players tonight coming off lots of rest with the exception of Brook Lopez, who participated in all-star weekend. Their biggest injury question is Deron Williams, who said yesterday that he is still not at 100% even after sitting out the past week plus. For Milwaukee, Larry Sanders is a game-time decision. He has missed the Bucks’ past few games but has had a good amount of time off. I have a feeling he will play.
Deron Williams vs. Brandon Jennings. Advantage: Jennings
Jennings has absolutely burned the Nets this season, scoring a combined 51 points in 2 games. To make things worse, Deron Williams is not fully healthy still and he doesn’t know how much time he will be able to play. Expect Jennings to destroy Williams on defense with Deron’s bad ankles. I will be surprised if Jennings doesn’t score at least 25 points tonight, especially because he is involved in trade rumors and Milwaukee wants to showcase him to the league. .
Joe Johnson vs. Monta Ellis. Advantage: Ellis
Ellis has also played well against Brooklyn this year, averaging 22 ppg against them. Joe Johnson is coming off one of his best games of the season last week against Denver and has had some much needed time off the past few days. Hopefully he will come back rejuvenated and ready to start this second half of the season.
Gerald Wallace vs. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Advantage: Wallace
Mbah a Moute is a pretty good defender but won’t do much else on the court. He is only averaging 8 points and 5 rebounds in 25 minutes this season. Wallace will probably get his hustle plays like usual, but don’t expect a big scoring output for him tonight.
Reggie Evans vs. Ersan Ilyasova. Advantage: Ilyasova
Ilyasova has been a Nets killer in the past and already has a double-double this year against Brooklyn. This is a very poor matchup for Reggie Evans and the Nets should be concerned. Ilyasova is a 44% (!) 3 point shooter this year, among the best in the league and Reggie is not going to want to go out and guard him near the 3-point line. The Nets don’t have a player than can matchup defensively with Ilyasova who is in the rotation. Perhaps Mirza Teletovic will get some playing time (?).
Brook Lopez vs. Larry Sanders. Advantage: Lopez
Sanders will likely start unless his injury keeps him out. If it does, Samuel Dalembert will take his place. Sanders has emerged as one of the best defensive centers in the league this season, averaging 3.2 blocks per game. However, if he is still injured, he may not be able to get up quite as high as he usually is. Lopez is going to need to have a monster game for Brooklyn to win tonight. He may need to score 25 to go along with 10 rebounds to give the Nets a chance.
Prediction: Nets 88, Bucks 83.
My gut is telling me to pick the Nets to win this game even though my brain is telling me to pick the Bucks. The Nets really matchup pretty terribly with Milwaukee and I would not be surprised at all to see the Bucks come in to Brooklyn and win. The key for the Nets will be stopping Jennings and Ellis. This will be their third crack at this team this season. We’ll see if Brooklyn finally figured them out.