After a tough loss Friday night, the Brooklyn Nets (33-23) will again be at home tonight to face one of the best in the west, the Memphis Grizzlies (36-18). Despite that loss, Brooklyn has been playing well recently and have had a recent 4-game winning streak. Memphis has been even better, winning 6 in a row, although 5 of those wins have come against lottery-bound teams. The Grizzlies beat Orlando at home on Friday.
These two teams met earlier in the season with the Grizzlies blowing out the Nets in Memphis. It was one of the Nets’ worst losses of the season and that game was never close. However, the Grizzlies have made some moves since then. A couple weeks before the trade deadline, they sent Rudy Gay to Toronto for Tayshaun Prince and Ed Davis. Although this moves was mostly made to clear salary cap space, the Grizzlies are 7-3 since the trade and are playing just as well as they had played before.
This game is important for the Nets for a couple of reasons. First of all, if Brooklyn wins and the Knicks lose to Philadelphia tonight, the teams will be in a virtual tie for first place. Also, this will be the last game in a long home stretch of schedule. After tonight, the Nets will only play 4 of their next 17 games at home. By the end of that stretch, we will already be into April. The Nets need this win to take momentum on the road with them.
Injuries: The Nets all of a sudden have lots of problems in their backcourt. Deron Williams is continuing to battle ankle injuries and may struggle against a quick point guard in Mike Conley. Although Joe Johnson is a game-time decision officially, he is not expected to play tonight. His heel is bothering him and is still day-to-day. All the Grizzlies are healthy.
Deron Williams vs. Mike Conley. Advantage: Williams
Conley has become one of the better point guards in the western conference this season and he is the type of guard the Nets typically struggle against: small and quick. He is averaging almost 14 points and 6 assists this season. Deron Williams passed very well on Friday against Houston, but Memphis has a much better defense than Houston so we will see if he can keep it up tonight.
C.J. Watson vs. Tony Allen. Advantage: Allen
Tony Allen has never been a great offensive player, but he is still one of the best defensive players in the league. With Joe Johnson out, Allen will likely guard Deron Williams, which could cause turnover problems for the Nets. Watson has played well recently when he has been inserted into the starting lineup.
Gerald Wallace vs. Tayshaun Prince. Advantage: Wallace
Tayshaun Prince was the main piece acquired by Memphis in the Rudy Gay trade. Since arriving in Memphis, he is averaging just 9 points and 3 rebounds per game, but is still one of the better defenders in the league. There will not be much offense between these players tonight.
Reggie Evans vs. Zach Randolph. Advantage: Randolph
This should be a fun matchup because both these players love to rebound. Randolph was an all-star this season and is averaging 16 points and 12 rebounds per game. This is not a terrible matchup for Reggie Evans, who will be able to fight with Randolph for rebounds. Even though Mirza Teletovic is coming off of one of his best games, the Nets will not be able to play him late in this game if both Randolph and Gasol are in because he will not be able to box out Randolph at all.
Brook Lopez vs. Marc Gasol. Advantage: Lopez
The first time these teams met, Gasol dominated Brook Lopez and that was one reason the Nets lost that game. Brook will have another chance for revenge tonight. He is coming off of a good game on Friday against Houston, but Memphis is a much better defensive team so he may struggle at times.
Prediction: Grizzlies 93, Nets 82.
The loss of Joe Johnson will really hurt the Nets’ offense tonight and it may cost them the game. If Tony Allen switches over onto Deron Williams, the Grizzlies will be able to force lots of turnovers and make this game pretty ugly. Turnovers will be the key tonight. If the Nets can prevent them from happening, they will have a chance to win this game.