With a week before Christmas, the 9-15 Brooklyn Nets play their second straight home game for just the third time this season, with a chance to hit double-digits in wins against a team that's just barely gotten there: the 10-13 Washington Wizards. The Wizards are fresh off a shocking 102-101 victory over the New York Knicks, featuring a late comeback, a game-winning layup by Wizards sophomore guard Bradley Beal, and poor crunch-time management from the Knicks:
The Nets and Wizards have faced off once before, a November 8th contest in Washington that ended as a 112-108 overtime loss for Brooklyn. The loss marked the last game for Andrei Kirilenko, who's hoping to be back before Christmas as he fights back spasms, and was one of the last games that Deron Williams played on a minutes restriction before re-spraining his ankle.
Williams says that he and his teammates have mostly forgotten about their loss last month, but know how potent an offensive weapon Wizards point guard John Wall can be. "He’s one of the fastest guys in this league, so his speed presents a problem," Williams said Tuesday during the team's practice at Barclays Center. "We’ve got to get back and pay attention to him. He’s doing a great job of getting in the lane."
Wall, a fourth-year guard, is averaging 19.5 points and 9.3 assists per game, both career highs. His PER of 20.1 ranks him eighth among qualifying point guards, sandwiched between Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker.
The Wizards will have their hands full if Brooklyn's offense is anything like it was on Monday night. Even if you set aside Joe Johnson's record-tying performance, the Nets set a franchise record with 21 three-pointers, recorded a season-high 35 assists, and found a remarkable number of open shots with crisp ball movement against a porous Philadelphia defense. And then, of course, there's Joe Johnson's record-tying performance, hitting eight threes in a quarter and exhaling 37 points in the first 36 minutes of play.
Though Brook Lopez is only listed as questionable, he expects to play. Then again, he also expected to play in Monday's game, and didn't. If he does play, he'll face off against another injured center, Nene, who sat out of Washington's Monday night win over the Knicks with right foot tendinitis. Nene has given Lopez fits in the past, most poignantly with this game-tying shot two seasons ago (complete with in-video breakdown):
The Nets have looked like a new team with Williams back on the floor and fully healthy. They've pushed the pace against fast teams and have hit all sorts of shots from long range. The Wizards do have one of the league's best defenses, but the Nets offense is just beginning to round into form, and they've got another opportunity against a subpar Eastern Conference team to continue to right their ship.