Evan Turner, Joe Johnson (AP)
The 8-15 Brooklyn Nets have a chance for an easy win tonight, as they'll take on the floundering 7-18 Philadelphia 76ers in Brooklyn. This is the Nets' first game since losing Friday in Detroit to the Detroit Pistons.
The 76ers represent something the Nets haven't really had much all season -- a team that the Nets should beat. (Imagine that sentence before the season. How the mighty have fallen.) Nets point guard Deron Williams is healthy, Sixers point guard Michael Carter-Williams isn't. Nets center Brook Lopez should play, and he detonated on Spencer Hawes's head the last time these two teams played. After a 3-0 start, the Sixers have lost 17 of their last 21 games and 10 of their last 11. The Nets have the type of advantage over the 76ers they haven't had since November 5th, when they blew out the Utah Jazz at home.
But there's one thing the 76ers do that the Nets don't, that so many teams do: run. The Nets have had issues containing fast teams this season without many end-to-end athletes on the roster. The Sixers are coached by first-time NBA coach Brett Brown, who has made fitness a priority, and they've kept the pace up even with the explosive Carter-Williams sitting out. They rank first in the league in pace, clocking in at a robust 101.7 possessions per game; conversely, the Nets rank as one of the slowest teams in the league, averaging nearly eight fewer possessions in a game.
But Brooklyn's best bet may be to let Philadelphia beat itself. They've lost their last six games by an average of 15 points per game, most recently a 34-point blowout loss to the streaking Portland Trail Blazers. The Nets desperately need to face a team that can't shoot threes, and the Sixers may be just the medicine: with Carter-Williams out, Hawes may be their most talented offensive player, and their only legitimate three-point threat. Their best scorer is the well-rounded but well-flawed Evan Turner, a poor man's Brandon Roy without the ball control or shooting ability beyond 20 feet.
Also, this is a completely different Sixers team, but it's also fun to remember when Deron Williams dropped 34 points and the game-winner on them less than two years ago:
The Sixers look like a team that's destined for a high lottery pick. If the Nets can get another solid game out of Deron Williams, and Brook Lopez returns healthy, this is the type of game they should win easily. But with the Nets these days, things never quite go according to plan.
Tipoff at 7:30 P.M.