The Brooklyn Nets (8-15) have a chance to pick up another Atlantic Division win Monday night when they visit the last place Philadelphia 76ers (7-18). The Sixers got off to a hot start this year and were the surprise team in the east in November, but they are currently on a 6-game losing streak and are looking more and more like the team we thought they were coming into the year. Their defense is the worst in the NBA by a large margin, giving up over 110 points per game. The second worst defensive team, the Lakers, is giving up only 103 points per game.
The team that controls the pace should win this game. The Sixers have the fastest pace in the entire league, while the Nets are the fifth slowest team in the league. Philadelphia’s fast pace explains why they give up so many points. The Nets actually have the worse defensive rating of the two teams and are second worst in the league, ahead of only Utah. The Sixers are the third worst defensive team.
This is the kind of game that the Nets should and need to win. The Sixers will most likely finish with one of the worst records in the league and are currently without their point guard. The Nets are also at home, where they have won 2 games in a row. And if the Nets win and Boston loses to Minnesota today, the Nets will be just one game out of first place in the Atlantic.
Injuries: The Sixers have not had Jason Richardson, Nerlens Noel, and Arnett Moultrie at all this season, but their big injury is Michael Carter-Williams. They are 0-6 with MCW not in the lineup, which gives the Nets an advantage tonight. Additionally, Sixers backup center Daniel Orton will be suspended tonight after he got into a fight on Saturday. The Nets still don’t know when Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko will return, but Brook Lopez expects to play tonight.
Deron Williams vs. Tony Wroten. Advantage: Williams
Wroten has actually filled in very nicely for Carter-Williams, at least on offense, where he has scored at least 18 points in 5 of the 6 games Carter-Williams has missed. He is also a very good rebounding point guard, but it helps that he is 6’6. Deron Williams should have his hands full tonight, at least on defense. Deron has been a big reason why the Nets have won 3 of their last 4 games and nearly made it 4 out of 4 if he would have gotten a foul call in the final seconds on Friday night in Detroit. I expect him to score a whole lot tonight against the unexperienced Wroten.
Joe Johnson vs. James Anderson. Advantage: Johnson
Anderson has gone from a fringe NBA player to a starter with the Sixers this year. He has done a solid job, averaging 10 points and 3 rebounds, but he is not a very good passer or 3-point shooter. Joe Johnson has been inconsistent since the Nets have gotten healthier, but I expect him to see plenty of open shots tonight. Philadelphia is not a good defensive team.
Alan Anderson vs. Evan Turner. Advantage: Turner
Evan Turner has thrived offensively in the Sixers’ new system, averaging 20 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists per game. However, he is coming off of his worst game of the year, when he scored just 3 points on 1-7 shooting on Saturday night. He has been a very bad 3-point shooter this year. I’m not sure why Alan Anderson is still starting for the Nets. I think Paul Pierce is the much better option. I expect Pierce to be moved back into the starting lineup within the next week or two.
Kevin Garnett vs. Thaddeus Young. Advantage: Young
Thaddeus Young has always been a Nets-killer, but hopefully Kevin Garnett will be able to contain him. It is also expected that Young will be traded before the deadline if not within the next week. Garnett has seemed to play a little bit better since Deron Williams has returned, but he is still nowhere near what he was offensively.
Brook Lopez vs. Spencer Hawes. Advantage: Lopez
Hawes is another player that has thrived in Philadelphia’s new system. He is averaging 15 points and 9 rebounds per game this year while shooting career highs of 50% from the field and 45% from 3. This concerns me with Brook Lopez guarding him because I Lopez will not go that far outside to contest 3′s. However, Lopez has dominated Hawes whenever they have matched up in the past, so I am not too concerned. Lopez expects to play tonight after missing Friday’s game with a twisted ankle. He has had big performances against the Sixers in previous seasons and I expect a lot from him tonight.
Bold prediction: Brook Lopez and Andray Blatche will combine for 45 points. The Sixers have extremely poor interior defense, perfect for Lopez and Blatche to have great games.
Score prediction: Nets 112, Sixers 97. The Nets should win this game pretty easily. They are playing better now, while the Sixers have been horrible recently. I’ll be surprised if the Nets can’t win this game.