After two close home losses to western conference playoff teams, the Brooklyn Nets (33-24) hit the road tonight to face the last place New Orleans Hornets (20-37). The soon-to-be Pelicans have lost 3 of their past 4 games and have the worst home record of any team in the western conference (10-17). The Nets have been excellent against sub-.500 opponents this season and this is a game that they should be able to win pretty easily.
The Hornets are a team with a bright future, but not a very bright present. They are 14th in the west in points per game, ahead of only Memphis who gives up under 90 ppg. They are a poor shooting team, but their defense is above average. The Nets have been last in the NBA in pace all season and New Orleans is second-to-last, which is good news for Brooklyn. The Nets will be able to play at their own pace and won’t be worried about fast breaks for the other team.
Injuries: Although the Hornets have had some injury problems this season, they are completely healthy now. For the Nets, the same problems continue. Deron Williams will play despite his bad ankles. Joe Johnson is questionable. I have a feeling he will give it a go tonight, but there’s no way to know yet.
Deron Williams vs. Greivis Vasquez. Advantage: Williams
Vasquez has been one of the most surprising players in the league this year and is deservedly one of the leading candidates for most improved player by averaging nearly 14 points, 10 assists, and 5 rebounds. However, since Deron Williams has received the shots in his ankles, he has played much better, especially on offense. He is shooting much better from the field and from 3 and is looking more comfortable on the court. He should be able to score at least 20 again tonight.
C.J. Watson/Joe Johnson vs. Eric Gordon. Advantage: Watson/Johnson
In Joe Johnson’s absence C.J. Watson has played very well. Hopefully Joe will be back on the court for the Nets tonight. They really missed him on Sunday night against Memphis at the end of the game and they will need him if this game is close. Eric Gordon has been hampered by injuries his entire career and this season has been no different. He has only played in 21 games so far, averaging just under 17 ppg, but only 3 assists and 1.5 rebounds. If he is healthy, he can be a very good player, but he still has yet to look 100% yet.
Gerald Wallace vs. Al-Farouq Aminu. Advantage: Wallace
Aminu has been a started for the Hornets this year and is averaging just under 8 points and 8 rebounds per game. He is similar to a player who the Nets have seen a lot recently, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute of the Bucks. Gerald Wallace is coming off a 0-point, 0-6 shooting game. His lack of offense is starting to become a problem for the Nets.
Reggie Evans vs. Anthony Davis/Ryan Anderson. Advantage: Davis/Anderson
Although Anthony Davis has played pretty well this season for a rookie, he has definitely been a bit of a disappointment for the Hornets. He missed some games early on in the season and is only averaging 13 ppg and 7.5 rpg. Many people thought he would be better. Coming off the bench for the Hornets is a former New Jersey Net and possibly this team’s best player, Ryan Anderson. Anderson is averaging 17 ppg and 7 rpg while shooting about 40% from 3. He can cause matchup problems if Reggie Evans or Kris Humphries are in the game. However, he is quite a similar player to Mirza Teletovic, who may get a lot of playing time tonight to match up with Anderson.
Brook Lopez vs. Robin Lopez. Advantage: Brook
The Battle of the Lopez’s! We all know how well Brook has played this season for the Nets, but Robin is also having a career year for the Hornets, averaging 11 ppg while shooting 56% from the field. These twins have had some fun matchups in the past, but now both are healthy and starting. Brook has been benched recently in fourth quarters because Andray Blatche has been playing well, but P.J. Carlesimo said after Sunday’s game that he will not be doing that anymore. Brook will be happy to hear that.
Prediction: Nets 89, Hornets 80.
The Hornets have not fared well this season against teams with more talent than they have, and the Nets are clearly the more talented team. New Orleans has not played very well at home and this is a road win that the Nets should be able to get.