Tonight, the generally undermanned face off against each other in an Eastern Conference battle of who can finish the game with fewer injuries!
The Nets are without Brook Lopez, Damion James, MarShon Brooks, Mehmet Okur, and DeShawn Stevenson; the Pistons without Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva (both out indefinitely). Rookie point guard Brandon Knight is probable for tonight, Will Bynum questionable.
Since losing to the eight-manned Nets last week, the 6-20 Pistons have ripped off a red-hot two game winning streak, defeating the 10-14 Milwaukee Bucks and the 4-21 New Orleans Hornets. Since that victory, the 8-18 Nets have lost three straight.
Here to talk tonight’s epic matchup of two Eastern Conference powerhouses (provided this is still 2003) is Dan Feldman of Pistons blog PistonPowered, flat-out one of the coolest and most informative sports blogs on the web.
One note about tonight: Net Worth, which usually comes immediately after the game, will be available tomorrow morning.
1. Which Nets player swings the game?
- Chris Hooker: I’m aware that I sound like a broken record here, but it’s Deron Williams. In fact, the answer to this question will always be Deron Williams until the Nets find a way to put a stop to some of these injuries and some of their key guys return. But today, Deron is the guy to watch. If he plays well, the Nets mostly follow suit. With this depleted roster, but with his partner-in-crime Anthony Morrow, the energy and motivation is all dependent on which Deron Williams shows up tonight… and this is something we are just going to have to face until Brook Lopez and MarShon Brooks return.
- Devin Kharpertian: The one, the only, Deron Williams. When he’s playing poorly, the Nets don’t win games. It’s that simple. The Nets are lacking almost all their firepower — without Deron, this looks an awful lot like the roster that made the deplorable routine at last season’s end. I don’t anticipate Deron having a poor night, but if he does, it’ll be ugly.
- Dan Feldman, PistonPowered: Deron Williams. In a game between two teams looking to improve their lottery odds, hopefully Williams turns in a superstar performance. That could allow the Pistons to play well and lose — the ideal combination for Detroit
2. Which Pistons player swings the game?
- Chris Hooker: Greg Monroe fared pretty well last time he went up against Kris Humphries and the Nets front court, posting 21 points and 8 rebounds. I like him a lot, especially against the deadly duo of Kris Humphries and Shelden Williams. Monroe has posted 13 double-doubles this season, and I expect him to more dominant on the glass than he was the last time he met up with the Nets. His play will be the key to holding down some consistency for the Pistons in the paint tonight.
- Devin Kharpertian: Greg Monroe. With Lopez out, Monroe looks like the second-best center in the Eastern Conference. His overall game has improved greatly this season, and it shows in his numbers; he’s averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds per game on 52% shooting. The key number: his free throw numbers, just 62.2% shooting on 2.9 attempts per game his rookie season, have risen to 81.7% and 4.0 this year.
- Dan Feldman: Brandon Knight. Williams clowned Knight the last time these played. Brandon Jennings gave Knight similar when the Pistons played the Bucks the other week. In the re-match with Milwaukee on Friday, Knight responded with one of the best games of his career. Knight’s development is key this season, and tonight offers another chance to show growth.
3. And the winner is…
- Chris Hooker: I’m going to go with the Nets, but I expect it to be close like it was last time. The Nets have ten players healthy and on a day’s rest. Having Morrow back will prove especially useful, as D-Will and Morrow have gelled well together this season. I like D-Will to go off tonight against Brandon Knight and I can’t see anyway the rookie finds an answer for him.
- Devin Kharpertian: Going with New Jersey. Greg Monroe is a force, but he’s the kind of player Kris Humphries and Shelden Williams can at least check; he’s not going to leap over you a la Tyson Chandler. If the Nets can cut off his looks to the basket and force Detroit to beat them from outside, the Nets take this one with relative ease.
- Dan Feldman: Nets. Even with a few days off since their last game, the Pistons probably aren’t good enough to beat the same team twice in such a short span. That takes plenty of mental focus, something the Pistons don’t exactly have in spades.