The Brooklyn Nets (4-12) will finish up their very difficult road back-to-back tonight with a game against the Memphis Grizzlies (8-7). The 12th place Nets got blown out in Houston last night, but are still only 2 games behind the Celtics for 8th place in the east. Meanwhile, Memphis, who is above .500 is sitting in ninth place in the west, out of the playoffs as of now. They are also only one game ahead of 13th place in the western conference. The Nets should be thankful they are in such a bad conference, because if they were in the west, they would have no chance at making the playoffs, even though it is still early in the year.
The Grizzlies made the western conference finals last year with their defense, and that has been their trademark again this year. They are allowing the second fewest points per game in the west behind San Antonio. However, they are also scoring the second fewest points at under 94 per game, ahead of only Utah. Brooklyn’s defense has looked really horrible recently, but tonight they will have a chance to not look nearly as bad.
Injuries: Even though Brook Lopez is finally back, the Nets still have plenty of injuries to deal with. Deron Williams, Andrei Kirilenko, and Jason Terry did not make the road trip and now Paul Pierce is listed as doubtful with a bruised hand. Memphis is pretty healthy except for one player, and probably their most important player, Marc Gasol.
Shaun Livingston vs. Mike Conley. Advantage: Conley
Conley is probably having the best individual season of his career, averaging a career high 19 ppg while shooting nearly 50% from the field. However, his 3-point percentage has been down this year to barely over 30%, so hopefully that is not something the Nets will need to worry about after their horrible 3-point defense last night. Livingston was benched last night after not doing anything at all in the first half. He hasn’t looked the same over the last couple of weeks. I think he is tired and is much better as a bench player than a starter. He really needs Deron Williams to come back soon.
Joe Johnson vs. Tony Allen. Advantage: Johnson
Tony Allen is still one of the premiere defenders in the NBA, but offensively, he is very ineffective. He is like the Reggie Evans of NBA shooting guards on offense. He is not a threat at all from 3-point range and he is not a great passer either. Allen is still one of the best defenders in the league, and his job tonight will be to shut down Joe Johnson. The problem with this for the Nets is that Joe has been their best offensive weapon lately, and they will need to get offense from other places instead. This is where Brook Lopez needs to step up.
Alan Anderson vs. Tayshaun Prince. Advantage: Prince
Like Tony Allen, Prince is not a good offensive player at all at this point in his career, averaging only 7.5 ppg. His defense is still pretty good though, like most of the players on this team. Anderson will likely start for Pierce, who is unlikely to play with a hand injury. It’s also possible that Jason Kidd could give Mirza Teletovic a start. He has been Brooklyn’s best player over the last two games. Either way, expect a lot of minutes from both players.
Kevin Garnett vs. Zach Randolph. Advantage: Randolph
With Marc Gasol out, the majority of Memphis’s points in the paint will have to come from Zach Randolph tonight. He is one of the toughest players to guard in the league because there isn’t really any defense to stop his shots from going up because his body is so large. Hopefully Kevin Garnett will be close to 100% tonight after getting a rest day yesterday. He will need to prevent a double-double from Randolph to give the Nets any chance at winning this game.
Brook Lopez vs. Kosta Koufos. Advantage: Lopez
Koufos has moved into the starting lineup with Marc Gasol out. He will definitely have his hands full tonight with Brook Lopez, who is Brooklyn’s most important player. I expect Randolph instead to guard Lopez because Randolph is a much better defender. Brook looked good on offense last night despite missing a couple of weeks of basketball, but he still only had 1 rebound. That will not cut it tonight. He needs to get at least 5 or 6.
Bold prediction: Memphis will get 35 points from their point guards. I think that Mike Conley and Jerryd Bayless will combine to have a really good game.
Score prediction: Memphis 104, Nets 88. The Nets’ defense has been so bad recently that they will make even Memphis’s offense look pretty good.