Tonight, the New Jersey Nets will take on the Detroit Pistons at the Prudential Center. The Nets are coming off another close loss in Indiana, while the Pistons are losers of their last six. New Jersey has fallen into a two-game slump, despite the efforts of Deron Williams, who is averaging 27 points and 8.8 assists in his last five games.
Joining Sandy and I in the pregame conversation is Patrick Hayes from the best Pistons blog on the net, Piston Powered, an ESPN NBA TrueHoop affiliate. Let’s take it away.
Injury update: The Nets will be without Anthony Morrow (ankle) and Johan Petro (illness) tonight.
1. What is the key for the Nets tonight?
- Chris Hooker: Rebounds, rebounds, rebounds. This game is going to be Hump vs. Monro under the basket. Humphries has had a dominating season on the glass, but the problem is, there isn’t anyone else there. Shelden Williams is an aggressive player, sure, but if he is your teams second best big man, there is a problem. On paper, Hump is the best big on the floor tonight, but the key will be which one of the Nets’ Lopez/Okur fill-in guys will step up and help out on the glass. Also, I’m not going to go into detail here, so I’ll just say Deron Williams and you should know what I mean.
- Sandy Dover: The key for the Nets will be, as always, being able to defend the paint. The Pistons have Greg Monroe and a series of other talented bigs and long players (like Jonas Jerebko, Tayshaun Prince, Jason Maxiell) who know how to penetrate, shoot, and bang. They can also defend, as well. The Nets must make it a priority to defend the paint or else there could be trouble. Kris Humphries doesn’t have a bunch of help, so he’ll have to do what he can.
- Patrick Hayes: The Pistons struggle to defend point guards and often give up big games to workhorse, blue-collar big men, so if Deron Williams is Deron Williams and Kris Humphries is assertive and active inside, both should have big games and the Nets will likely win.
2. What is the key for the Pistons tonight?
- Chris Hooker: Perimeter defense. The Pistons are facing a team that leads the league in three-pointers, mostly because they shoot more than they should. Deron Williams has been consistently inconsistent shooting the ball, so if the Pistons D can force the Nets, and especially D-Will, to take bad shots, they will shut down their shooting attack. Detroit needs to cut ball movement from Deron to Morrow and keep an eye on Shawne Williams, who is the only healthy Nets small forward, unless they give Keith Bogans minutes, which has a zero percent chance of happening. There’s a pattern here: teams that stop D-Will, win. Your move Detroit.
- Sandy Dover: I have the Pistons winning largely because the talent level and harmony of the team are at least a level up from what the Nets currently possess. The Pistons can reliably go to a stable of wings, point guards, and a few bigs that have the means to handle whatever the Nets choose to bring. New Jersey has a fighting chance to win the ball game, but Detroit has a better advantage between the two teams.
- Patrick Hayes: Tayshaun Prince has to stop shooting more than Greg Monroe. The Pistons were more competitive early this season when the offense was running through Monroe. Prince, and to a lesser extent, Rodney Stuckey, have been way too involved, the ball movement has stopped as a result and Monroe is getting nowhere near enough touches for as efficient a scorer as he is.
3. And the winner is…
- Chris Hooker: Is it weird that the Nets playing at home actually hurts their chances at winning tonight? This team is 2-6 at home, and just looks worse at the Rock. D-Will and Morrow both called out the arena. It’s not a healthy environment. Having said that, I think New Jersey is riding a wave right now and Detroit isn’t that good of a team. I don’t think D-Will is going to allow his team to lose tonight. He’s going to put the team on his back, Greg Jennings style.
- Sandy Dover:I have the Pistons winning largely because the talent level and harmony of the team are at least a level up from what the Nets currently possess. The Pistons can reliably go to a stable of wings, point guards, and a few bigs that have the means to handle whatever the Nets choose to bring. New Jersey has a fighting chance to win the ball game, but Detroit has a better advantage between the two teams.
- Patrick Hayes: New Jersey. The Nets’ injury issues might make the game more competitive than recent Pistons games (they’ve lost six straight, four of those by 20 or more points), but playing at home and having Deron Williams should be more than enough for New Jersey.