When: 7:30 PM EST
Where: Barclays Center
Watch: YES Network, Fox Sports GO
Listen: 101.9 FM, 660 AM
Do you hear that? Spring is here! The first day of spring was yesterday, March 20, but in New York and throughout the Northeast a snowstorm is blanketing any hopes for the true start of spring. But for the Brooklyn Nets, a win streak is brewing. On Monday, Brooklyn notched its 23rd win of the season – and their second in a row – after a close matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies. Although not the prettiest game from either team, Brooklyn was able to grind out a victory, executing in the fourth quarter.
The Nets will try to make it three wins in a row against the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday. The two teams met 13 days ago in Charlotte, with the Nets securing a 125-111 victory. Despite a strong performance from Kemba Walker for Charlotte, Brooklyn’s team ball propelled it to victory. The Nets were led in that game by 29 points from Allen Crabbe and 22 points off the bench from Caris LeVert.
With a win tonight, the Nets could take the season series against Charlotte, a team that has struggled to find consistency all season. A third straight win could also give the Nets some momentum heading into their next two contests against Eastern Conference powerhouses Toronto and Cleveland.
Here are three things to watch for in tonight’s Nets-Hornets matchup!
Controlling the Boards
In their first matchup, a 111-96 Hornets victory, Dwight Howard dominated. The former Defensive Player of the Year grabbed rebounds at will, snatching 24 boards, eight of them on the offensive end. He simply made Jarrett Allen and the rest of the Nets frontcourt look like easy pickings. In that game, the Nets were outrebounded 54-41. It was a different story in the Nets’ victory on March 8. Then, the Nets took the rebounding edge, 43-36. Howard was limited to just rebounds, thanks to a team effort in securing boards.
A key to victory for the Nets would be to repeat their performance on the boards. Stopping Dwight Howard, along with Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky, could be the difference in the game. While the Nets may not have the size or experience to truly match up with Charlotte’s bigs, rebounding will need to be a team effort.
RHJ has been impressive in the Nets’ most recent stretch of games. In the past five contests, Brooklyn’s No. 4-man has averaged 18.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists while shooting an efficient 56.9 percent from the field. Hollis-Jefferson’s aggression within the arc has also been rewarded. He has shot 6.8 free throws per game, topped off with 13 free throw attempts on Monday against the Grizzlies. RHJ’s progression from hustle wing to efficient power forward has been one of the highlights of the Nets’ season.
Against the Hornets, Hollis-Jefferson will need to continue his recent brilliance. While unable to be measured, his sheer energy on both ends could be a major reason for the Nets’ most recent success. Against the Grizzlies, he constantly had his hands on rebounds and tip-ins, despite being matched up (and fouled hard) by Memphis’ front line. Along with DeMarre Carroll, Brooklyn’s wings are scrappy and determined. RHJ will look to continue his strong play and contribute to a Nets victory tonight.
First off, Allen Crabbe’s basketball-reference nickname of “Cool Breeze” is far superior to “AC” that some have been calling him as of late. But Crabbe’s return to the Nets lineup after missing two games was a big factor in Brooklyn’s victory Monday. The guard scored 22 points on a pristine 7-of-10 shooting from the field. He showed no signs of rust after the brief time missed, and his steady shooting touch continues to act as a strong fallback option for playmakers D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie.
In March, Crabbe’s shooting numbers have improved, shooting 39.6 percent from three. In home games this month, Crabbe is shooting 43.8 percent. Crabbe will look to continue his solid month of March with another strong game. Much like Hollis-Jefferson, Crabbe’s improvement this season has been one to watch. He has started to diversify his game, adding more than just catch-and-shoot attempts to his offensive repertoire. Things are starting to come together for him – and the Nets. A victory tonight could be another positive sign at the end of the season.