The Brooklyn Nets (2-2) will be looking for their first road win in three chances tonight when they visit the Washington Wizards (1-3). The Nets are coming off an easy win over Utah on Tuesday and have had 2 full days off since then. The Wizards got their first win of the season in Philadelphia on Wednesday. Their goal this year is to make the playoffs.
Washington’s playoff drive hasn’t gotten off to a great start as they began the season 0-3. However, all of their losses have been pretty close and two of them were against pretty good teams. The issue for the Wizards has been defense. They’ve given up over 100 points in every game this season.
Brooklyn is still developing chemistry and consistency, but tonight should be a good test for the Nets against a hungry and pretty desperate team. The Nets are definitely more talented, but it will be a question of focus for them tonight.
Injuries: Washington will be missing Otto Porter Jr. and Chris Singleton, neither of whom have played yet this season. The Nets have a couple of question marks heading into the game. Reporters were saying that Paul Pierce was sick last night and is now a game-time decision. Even if he plays, his minutes could be restricted. Also, this being Brooklyn’s first back-to-back, which game will Kevin Garnett miss? My guess is that it will be tonight’s as tomorrow’s game vs. Indiana is more important. We will see.
Deron Williams vs. John Wall. Advantage: Wall
Wall has gotten off to a nice start this year, averaging 20 points and 9 assists per game. The best part is that he finally looks like he is able to shoot, even though it is a small sample size. He is shooting 8/19 from 3 through his first 4 games, including hitting five 3’s on Wednesday against Philadelphia. We are still waiting for Deron Williams’s breakout game. Remember, Deron’s nine 3-pointer half last year came against Washington.
Joe Johnson vs. Bradley Beal. Advantage: Beal
Beal still might be a year away, but he is definitely on the path to becoming one of the best scorers in the league. Through 4 games he is averaging 16 ppg this year and has scored in double figures every game. Joe Johnson’s problem early has been consistency. There will be games where he shoots and plays very well and then games where he is invisible. If Pierce or Garnett miss the game tonight, they will need much more from Joe.
Paul Pierce vs. Trevor Ariza. Advantage: Pierce
This is assuming Pierce is able to play. If he can’t go, I expect either Alan Anderson or Andrei Kirilenko to replace him in the starting lineup. Ariza has been surprisingly good this year. He is averaging 17 points and 9 rebounds per game this year, nearly double his numbers last season. Even though he has been in the NBA a long, long time, he is still only 28 years old. If Pierce can’t play, Kirilenko will have his hands full defensively with Ariza.
Kevin Garnett vs. Nene. Advantage: Garnett
I have a feeling that Garnett will be given the night off tonight to have him fresh for Saturday’s game. If he is out, Andray Blatche will likely start in his place, and it is always interesting when Blatche comes back to Washington. Nene has caused the Nets problems in the past by coming out and making mid-range jump shots. Blatche will need to play smart and not leave Nene open too often or he could easily score 20 points.
Brook Lopez vs. Marcin Gortat. Advantage: Lopez
Gortat came over to the Wizards from Phoenix just before the start of the season, and so far, so good. He is averaging a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds. My main complaint with Lopez early on in the season is giving up too many offensive rebounds to his opponents. Other than that, Lopez has been pretty excellent so far.
Bold prediction: Nene will score 20 points. It seems like whenever he plays the Nets, he has a big game.
Score prediction: Wizards 101, Nets 90. The Nets haven’t done a great job in smaller games this year, and with Indiana coming up tomorrow, I don’t think the Nets will be focused enough to get this early season win.