After finishing up a 1-2 road trip with a loss to the Clippers on Saturday night, the banged up Brooklyn Nets (3-6) are back home at Barclays Center tonight where they will host the surprise team in the west, the Portland Trail Blazers (8-2). Portland has won 6 in a row, all against pretty bad teams, and are first in their division, ahead of Oklahoma City and Minnesota. They are led by Damian Lillard, who is having just as good a season this year as he had in his rookie year.
The Blazers are 8-2, but they have played one of the easiest schedules in the league. Despite playing a lot of bad teams, most of their games have been pretty close, which suggests that they have been getting lucky. Portland is coming off of an overtime win in Toronto last night, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the team looks a little bit tired, especially in the fourth quarter.
Unfortunately, the Nets will definitely not have their full roster available for this game, which is important for developing chemistry later in the season. Brooklyn’s second team will have to really show up tonight, because I don’t think Nets fans at Barclays Center will be very happy to see their team fall to 3-7.
Injuries: For the Nets, until we hear any new news, we have to assume that Deron Williams, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Brook Lopez, and Andrei Kirilenko are all still out, but any number of them could play tonight. For Portland, Meyers Leonard has missed the last couple of games with the flu and rookie C.J. McCollum hasn’t played yet this year.
Shaun Livingston vs. Damian Lillard. Advantage: Lillard
Lillard, who could have been a Net, has gotten off to a great start in his second year and is definitely not in a sophomore slump, averaging 20 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds per game. He definitely looks like the next NBA star point guard. If Deron Williams can’t play, Shaun Livingston will start again. Livingston had a rough shooting night on Saturday night, but that was on no rest. Hopefully he will play better after the off day.
Joe Johnson vs. Wes Matthews. Advantage: Johnson
Matthews has also gotten off to a good start this year, averaging 15 ppg. His biggest weapon is his 3 point shot, which he is shooting at an unbelievable 50% this year. Johnson needs to make sure not to ever leave Matthews open. Joe had a bad shooting display on Saturday, partly because the defense can focus more on him with all the injured Nets.
Alan Anderson vs. Nicolas Batum. Advantage: Batum
Batum is a triple-double candidate every night and has even had a rare 5X5 game in his career. He has a very good all-around game and doesn’t really have any specific strengths. Anderson will probably start if Pierce is out. Hopefully he can continue shooting well.
Reggie Evans/Mason Plumlee vs. LaMarcus Aldridge. Advantage: Aldridge
Reggie started in place of Kevin Garnett on Saturday, but after seeing how good Mason Plumlee was against a very good Clippers front court, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Jason Kidd give Plumlee his first ever NBA start. Aldridge is a former all-star and is playing like it again this year, averaging nearly 20-10. He is a very good shooter for someone his size and is nearly impossible to stop on offense, especially if the Nets don’t have KG. He might have a very big game.
Anday Blatche vs. Robin Lopez. Advantage: Blatche
It really is too bad that Brook Lopez is injured because it is always fun to see him play against his twin. Robin isn’t nearly as talented as Brook, but he has been a better rebounder this year, averaging nearly 8 rpg. Hopefully Blatche won’t go back to being bad Blatche tonight. He had his best game of the season on Saturday and didn’t play like an idiot.
Bold prediction: LaMarcus Aldridge will score 30 points. Nobody on the Nets’ roster has any chance at containing Aldridge if Lopez and Garnett are out.
Score prediction: Nets 96, Blazers 90. I think the Nets are gonna pull the upset tonight. The Blazers are tired after playing an overtime road game yesterday and the Nets are desperate enough to not lose this kind of a game at home.
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