It’s been a busy week for the Brooklyn Nets. The team obliterated the 76ers on Monday to the tune of a 130-94 blowout, and on Wednesday faltered down the stretch against Washington in a 113-107 loss. In their final game of the week tonight, they face Philadelphia once again, but with one little, tiny, rookie-sized difference: Michael Carter-Williams.
Carter-Williams did not play against the Nets on Monday and has missed seven straight games shelved with a knee infection. Carter-Williams was a huge key in the 76ers’ 4-0 start, and they have faltered without him.
Can the rookie shake off the rust and lead the Sixers to revenge against Brooklyn? Without Garnett out, where does this game’s X-Factor lie? All that and more by The BK crew below!
1. After the disappointing loss to Washington, how can the Nets bounce back?
Ben Nadeau: Joe Johnson is a game-time decision tonight, so it looks like the Nets are going to need someone else to spontaneously combust in the 3rd Quarter tonight. I nominate Mirza Teletovic. But really, this game truly depends on the Nets getting after it on the boards tonight. With Garnett getting the night off, the Nets are going to have to look towards Lopez and Plumlee to have big games. If the Nets can put half the effort in as they did against the Wizards, they’ll be far better off in the long run.
As we’ve seen, the Nets are tough to beat when they give the effort, unfortunately, it seems, sometimes they take entire days off. Will tonight be one? I hope not, the Nets can’t afford to drop games like this.
Max Weisberg: Play the Tankadelphia 76’ers? After what we witnessed on Monday, playing the Sixers is the best recipe for a bounce back performance.
Justin DeFeo: A win would help, but specifically? Defending the three-point line and cleaning up rebounds would be where I would look to first. The Wizards feasted on the Nets in those two areas as the Nets interior defense went soft while their perimeter defense went…old. They had hard time keeping the Wizards bigs off the glass while many of their shooters had uncontested looks. The Sixers don’t match the Wizards’ talent, so that should help, but it has to start on the defensive end for Brooklyn.
2. If Michael Carter-Williams plays, how much does that change?
Ben Nadeau: I honestly wasn’t sold on MCW coming out of Syracuse, but he quickly changed my mind. He changes the entire make-up of Philadelphia’s team. He’s already proved his worth as a pretty good scorer and an even better distributor. The difference between a game run by Carter-Williams and Tony Wroten is an incredibly easy thing to notice. Remember how bad Brooklyn looked without Williams? Yeah, same thing.
Max Weisberg: If Michael Carter-Williams, a.k.a. MCW, a.k.a. Baby Face, plays tonight, it will change the game dramatically. The Sixers are 0-7 when he doesn’t play compared to their 7-13 mark when he does play. Carter-Williams is undoubtedly Philadelphia’s most valuable player for one reason: he can create off the dribble. We saw what the Nets’ offense looked like when Deron Williams — the team’s de facto playmaker — was out (hint: not good). With Philadelphia having much less talent than Brooklyn, Carter-Williams’ presence on the court is that much more important.
Justin DeFeo: I think it changes the Sixers quite a bit actually. MCW is having a great rookie season and is arguably the Sixers’ best player. The impacts are noticeable for the Nets with and without our point guard on the floor and although MCW isn’t as good as DWill, his impact is similar. MCW also offers up size that could potentially bother Williams on defense.
3. What is this game’s X-Factor?
Ben Nadeau: The Nets have had the same X-Factors all year– effort, Garnett, rebounding, perimeter defense, etc– but I’m going to throw out something new: the energy off the bench. On Wednesday, Andray Blatche looked like the Hyde-Blatche we’ve all come to loathe, Plumlee was glued to the bench and Evans didn’t impress. With Garnett out and Lopez continuing not to be the most aggressive player on the boards, it will fall to the bench mob to clean up the mess. Throw the wild Plumlee out there and let him go crazy.
Max Weisberg: The X-Factor tonight will be transition defense. The Nets will score, I don’t think anyone doubts that based on what we saw on Monday. But with MCW likely returning to the lineup for the Sixers, how will Brooklyn’s transition defense hold up? The Sixers easily play at the fastest pace in the NBA and the Nets rank 22nd in fast break points allowed per 100 possessions.
Justin DeFeo: Incentives. There are two glaring incentives that both teams face tonight. For the Nets its the huge, overwhelming incentive to win. They are desperate for them, need as many of them as they can get to first make the playoffs and second get good positioning for the playoffs. For the Sixers, there incentive lies within the exact opposite result. Losses help Philadelphia now and for their sake hopefully in the future. The players won’t go out there playing to lose, but you there is a reason the Sixers are so talent deprived in the first place.
Ben Nadeau: Nets 100, Sixers 90
Max Weisberg: Nets 115, Sixers 100
Justin DeFeo: Nets 110, Sixers 95