Key Matchup: Brooklyn Nets vs. Washington Wizards

John Wall, Deron Williams
The Nets and Wizards go head to head tonight. (AP)
John Wall, Deron Williams
The Nets and Wizards go head to head tonight. (AP)

The 9-15 Brooklyn Nets will try to protect home court against the 10-13 Washington Wizards tonight. Here’s our key matchup of the game.

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Though most of the focus Monday night lay squarely on Joe Johnson’s impeccable shooting form, Williams has been incredible when 100% healthy, and was no different in the team’s 130-94 blowout win over the Philadelphia 76ers. His lateral quickness with the ball in his hands, coupled with his strength for the point guard position, allows him to dart and bully his way into the paint, giving the team an added dimension they just don’t have with Shaun Livingston and Tyshawn Taylor.

Put it this way: when Joe Johnson has the ball in his hands, he’s the biggest threat on the floor. When Brook Lopez has the ball in his hands, he’s the biggest threat on the floor. When Deron Williams has the ball in his hands, everyone is a threat. Coaches often talk about defending “one pass away”, but Williams can hit nearly anyone on the floor at any time, and when he’s fully healthy and able to create for himself, he’s one of the hardest players in the league to contain.

Williams has had an enormous impact on the floor all season for the Nets, even if he’s only been fully healthy for four games. With him in, the Nets have averaged more fast-break points (10.4 per 48 minutes with him on, 7.5 with him off), more assists (24.3 per 48 with him on, 17.8 with him off) and a much higher three-point percentage (45.4 percent with him on the court, 32.8 percent with him off).

As a whole, the Nets have outscored opponents by 7.2 points per 100 possessions with Williams on the floor. With him off the floor, opponents have outscored them by a full nine points per 100 possessions.

The team’s able to get better shots both because Williams is such a talented creator and because he’s got them playing faster. “The energy’s picked up, the pace has picked up, and i think i have a little bit to do with that,” Williams said after a victory last week. It’s true: the Nets play nearly six possessions faster per game with Williams on the floor.

But Williams isn’t the only great point guard in the game tonight. The Wizards are led by John Wall, arguably the fastest player in the NBA with the ball in his hands and one of the league’s most formidable passers. The lanky 6’4″ guard is averaging a career-high 8.9 assists per 36 minutes, his assist percentage of 43.1 ranks second in the NBA behind Chris Paul, and only Paul and Williams create more points per 48 minutes from passing the ball than the electric Wizards guard.

The Nets have struggled against fast teams this season — their win over the 76ers, who have now lost seven straight games, was their first win over a team in the top 10 of the league in pace. Though the Wizards aren’t one of those teams, they do employ one of the fastest guards in the game in Wall. If they can’t contain him tonight, they’ll walk right into trouble.