The second place Brooklyn Nets (34-24) will be back home Friday night to face Mark Cuban and the struggling Dallas Mavericks (25-32). The Nets are coming off a win Tuesday night in New Orleans which snapped a small 2-game losing streak. Although Joe Johnson has not played in the last 3 games, he is expected back tonight. The Mavericks have lost 3 straight games which has virtually eliminated their chances of securing the last spot in the western conference playoffs. They have only beaten one team with any chance at making the playoffs in the past month and a half.
One of the main storylines in this game will be Deron Williams facing Mark Cuban’s Mavericks for the first time since rejecting the Mavs’ offer last summer. There was no denying that Dallas wanted to sign Deron, and he strongly considered going to Dallas. However, Cuban ditched a meeting that D-Will had with the team in July, which put him off from Dallas. Of course, he eventually signed with the Nets, prompting Cuban to say that Dallas never wanted him in the first place anyway. This might be somewhat of a revenge game for Deron.
This will be an important game for the Nets because 4 of their next 5 games will be on the road. This is a chance to pick up a win against a bad team at home, which the Nets have been good at doing this year. They still only have 2 losses against sub-.500 teams on the season.
Injuries: For the Nets, Joe Johnson is still questionable for this game, although all indications are that he will play. He has had 3 days off since the Hornets game and has said his foot is feeling better. I will be surprised to see him sit out, but he might play limited minutes. Despite how poorly the Mavs have been playing recently, they are healthy.
Deron Williams vs. Darren Collison. Advantage: Williams
Darren Collison has never quite become the player some were hoping he would. In his fourth season he is averaging 13 points and 5.5 assists per game but has not led the Mavericks to many wins. Deron Williams has been playing great since the all-star break, especially in the games Joe Johnson missed. With Joe likely back in the lineup tonight, it will be interesting to see if Deron can keep up his good play. I expect Deron to play well against Mark Cuban’s team tonight.
C.J. Watson/Joe Johnson vs. O.J. Mayo. Advantage: Watson/Johnson
O.J. Mayo left Memphis and came to Dallas to be a starter, which he is. However, his numbers this season have not been much better than his years in Memphis. In fact, his numbers this season are eerily similar to his stats his rookie season in Memphis when he started and starred for a bad team. It seems like he is in the same situation now. Joe Johnson should be good to go tonight. Hopefully he is close to 100% and will be in the game at the end if it is close.
Gerald Wallace vs. Shawn Marion. Advantage: Marion
Although this matchup would have been more entertaining in 2007 than it is now, these are two good defensive players and good rebounders who should battle in this game. Marion has played surprisingly well this season, averaging 11.5 points and 8 rebounds. Wallace hasn’t played nearly as well, but he is on a better team. I don’t expect either player to score more than 10 tonight.
Reggie Evans vs. Dirk Nowitzki. Advantage: Nowitzki
Although Dirk isn’t what he once was, he can still shoot and dominate Reggie Evans tonight. Nowitzki has only played in 28 games this season and is averaging just 16 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, his lowest totals since his rookie year in 1999. However, the Nets don’t have a player who can matchup well with Dirk and he might have a big game. If Dallas wins tonight, it will be because of Nowitzki.
Brook Lopez vs. Chris Kaman. Advantage: Lopez
Kaman is still returning from a recent injury and started his first game in February on Wednesday. He is averaging 12 points and 6 rebounds per game, which is a little below average for a center. Brook Lopez might have a big game tonight. Kaman is slow and not a good defender at all. Lopez should be able to take advantage of him and possibly score 25 points.
Prediction: Nets 97, Mavericks 83.
The Nets have no reason to not win this game. This Dallas team is a long way away from the championship team two seasons ago and they have lost 3 straight games against mediocre competition. This team’s playoff hopes are nearly gone and the Nets can put another nail in Cuban’s coffin tonight.