One year ago today, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and the Boston Celtics tore apart the Nets in Brooklyn, drawing the ire of Gerald Wallace, a second-half confrontation, and a 93-76 loss, dropping the Nets to 14-13 and bringing coach Avery Johnson just one game from his eventual firing.
If you can’t beat ’em, trade for ’em.
Now, armed with Pierce and Garnett, the Nets host a Christmas game at Barclays Center at noon for the second straight season. They take on the Chicago Bulls: a game billed as marquee in October, but with significantly less luster today.
The Bulls, for the second straight season, have lost former MVP Derrick Rose to a season-ending knee injury. Jimmy Butler, Kirk Hinrich, and Luol Deng, three other Bulls starters, are also fighting various injuries. Deng will not play. They’re 10-16 on the season despite ranking fifth in the NBA in defensive efficiency, having lost 11 of 14 games on the road.
The Nets learned last weekend that they’ll be without Brook Lopez for the season, after his third major foot injury in two years. Andrei Kirilenko, their assumed sixth man, is a game-time decision. After the assumption that they’d compete for a championship for one final season, the Nets have sputtered to a 9-18 start.
So much for the bright lights. Below, Benjamin Nadeau and William Rausch answer three Christmas-day questions.
1. Without Rose and Lopez, what’s the key to this showdown?
Ben Nadeau: Deron Williams. Kirk Hinrich says he’s going to play, but he’s no world-stopper. After that, Williams will see Marquis Teague and D.J. Augustin thrown at him. After the loss to the Pacers, he said it needed to start with him, that he needed to play better. Today would be a good day to start.
William Rausch: Christmas is a holiday awash in emotionalism and sentiment, so let’s be grinches for a moment and go with cold, hard facts. Staying rational also helps to counter the negative emotions that swell when thinking of last year’s game 7 loss to the Bulls. The Nets are 0-16 when trailing after the third quarter and 0-14 when giving up 100 points. Clearly the Nets need to be leading after the third quarter and give up less than 100 points to a Bulls team that scores a league worst 91.8 points per game.
2. The Nets have an advantage at point guard. Predict Deron Williams’s line:
Ben Nadeau: Like I said, this could be quintessential Deron Williams game. Maybe I’m optimistic or just overflowing with that Christmas joy, but here goes: 25 points, 11 assists, four three-pointers, two steals, and a partridge in a pear tree. I’ll see myself out.
William Rausch: D-Will has an advantage over newly acquired Kirk Hinrich or D.J. Augustin, sure, but did D-Will get platelet-enriched plasma injections for Christmas? Deron tweaked one of his faberge ankles on Monday in the blowout loss to the Pacers and I’m not sure I trust that he’s fine. That said, let’s stick to the Grinch/avoiding negative feelings about game 7 angle and go with something around D-Will’s average this season: 12 points, 7 assists.
3. Last year the Nets were embarrassed on National TV by the Celtics, firing Avery Johnson two days later. Will this year be different?
Ben Nadeau: After Pierce’s game against Indiana, who knows what they’ll get out of him? Jason Kidd called the Nets quitters, in so many words, so it’ll be interesting to see how they respond. I believe they will, for some reason. Look for big games from Joe Johnson and Mirza Teletovic.
William Rausch: I don’t think the Nets will get blown out like last year’s Christmas Day Massacre at the hands of the Paul Pierce/KG Celtics. Sure the shorthanded Bulls are coming off a 100-84 thumping of the Cavs and are likely getting Hinirich and Butler back. And then there is that whole Bulls ability to rise to the occasion in Brooklyn thing, but why did you bring that up? Are you trying to ruin my Christmas? These aren’t the 2012-13 Bulls and while I think they will likely beat the Nets, I don’t see them winning in blowout fashion.
Ben Nadeau: Nets 99, Bulls 91
William Rausch: Bulls 92 Nets 90.