The Brooklyn Nets (35-26) will return home Friday night to face the team with the worst road record in the NBA, the Washington Wizards (19-40). Washington is only 5-23 away from Washington, where they are 14-17. After beating the team with the worst home record in the league (Charlotte) on Wednesday, the Nets should have, at least on paper, another easy game tonight. However, the Nets have surprisingly lost 4 home games in a row and are only 20-13 at home.
Brooklyn is only 1-1 against Washington this season, although both those games were on the road. The first game was a double-overtime thriller where Joe Johnson killed the Wizards by hitting a buzzer beater at the end of the second OT. The second game was a different story. With John Wall back in the lineup, Washington blew out Brooklyn and held the Nets to only 74 points in the game.
The Wizards’ problem this year has surprisingly not been their defense, which actually better than average this season. However, their offense has been pretty awful. They are last in the NBA by a pretty wide margin when it comes to scoring and are averaging under 91 ppg as a team. They are also second-to-last in the league in field goal percentage, last in offensive rating, and last in turnover ratio. This is not a very good team, especially on the road, and the Nets should win tonight.
Injuries: The Nets look like they are completely healthy now, although Deron Williams and Joe Johnson may still have nagging injuries. For the Wizards, Bradley Beal is questionable for tonight’s game. My guess is that he won’t play.
Deron Williams vs. John Wall. Advantage: Williams
There’s no question that the Wizards have played better since John Wall has returned, but Deron Williams has been playing better than Wall since the all-star break. He scored 20 points in his last game in Charlotte and is shooting much, much better from the field since the all-star break. The pain in his ankles seems to be fixed, at least temporarily, and he should look like the Utah Deron in this game. Wall is averaging fewer points, rebounds, assists, and steals this season than he had in his first two.
Joe Johnson vs. Martell Webster/Bradley Beal. Advantage: Johnson
If Bradley Beal cannot play tonight, Martell Webster will start in his place and have the tough matchup of guarding Joe Johnson. Webster is averaging nearly 11 ppg this season and is doing most of his damage from long range, where he is shooting nearly 45%. However, he won’t do much else on either offense or defense. Joe Johnson had his first good game since his injury on Wednesday in Charlotte. He made 5 3’s in that game and hopefully he can have a similar performance tonight.
Gerald Wallace vs. Trevor Ariza. Advantage: Wallace
Ariza will also benefit from Beal’s injury and he will start if Beal cannot. This season he is averaging 9 points and 5 rebounds while usually coming off of the bench. He has always been a little bit overrated since he won a championship with the Lakers and never became the superstar that some people were hoping he would become. Like Webster, Ariza also shoots a lot of 3’s. Gerald Wallace had a pretty good game in Charlotte, especially on defense. It will be interesting to see who he will guard tonight. He might need to help Reggie Evans out on Nene.
Reggie Evans vs. Nene. Advantage: Nene
If the Wizards win this game tonight, it will most likely be because of Nene. He provides a tough matchup for Reggie Evans and has hurt the Nets in the past. In his two previous games against Brooklyn this season, he has scored 20 points in each even though he is averaging under 13 points per game for the season. He is capable of hitting mid-range jumpers, and Reggie Evans often struggles against players like that. The Nets need to develop a strategy to prevent him from getting open looks like he has gotten against them in the past.
Brook Lopez vs. Emeka Okafor. Advantage: Lopez
Okafor is a double-double threat most nights and is averaging almost 10 points and 9 rebounds per game. In the last game between these teams, Okafor did a good job containing Lopez, limiting him to 3-11 shooting from the field. This time, Lopez will be at home and hopefully play better. He has been in a bit of a slump since the all-star break.
Prediction: Nets 92, Wizards 85.
This will not be as easy a game as Nets fans hope for, but Brooklyn will find a way to win against the worst road team in the NBA. I expect the Wizards to be in the game if not holding a lead for most of the time, but the Nets will take over towards the end of the fourth quarter led by Joe Johnson to get this victory.