Nets face another potential playoff foe

Nets face another potential playoff foe
Al Jefferson, John Wall
The Wizards’ John Wall (AP)

After taking down the Miami Heat for the third time this season, the Brooklyn Nets travel to Washington to play the Washington Wizards tonight.

Brooklyn Nets


Washington Wizards
33-30 Record 34-31
8-2 Last 10 Games 7-3
103.1 Points scored per 100 possessions 102.9
103.9 Points allowed per 100 possessions 102.6
94.1 Possessions per game 95.5
45.2% Field goal percentage 45.5%
36.5% Three-point percentage 38.7%
47.1% Rebound percentage 50.0%
15.3% Turnover percentage 15.0%
Joe Johnson (15.0) Top Scorer John Wall (19.6)

It’s been six seasons since the Wizards last made the playoffs, but it looks like their fortunes will change this year. Led by a balanced combination of wing and frontcourt skill, the Wizards (34-31) are currently the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, with a chance to reclaim fifth if they beat the Nets tonight.

Washington’s scoring comes primarily from their young backcourt. They’re led by the explosive and lengthy John Wall, in the midst a career season with averages of 19.6 points, 8.8 assists, and 4.2 rebounds in 36.8 minutes per game. He’s also played in all 65 of Washington’s games this season after missing 33 games last year after a stress fracture in his left kneecap. Flanking him in the backcourt is Bradley Beal, a sophomore guard who’s shooting 41.8 percent from three-point range. Beal has a sprained ankle and is listed as questionable.

The Nets may elect to put the turnover-creating machine Shaun Livingston on Wall, who’s Washington’s primary ballhandler, and use Williams to chase Beal around screens. But Livingston’s also very good playing the passing lanes. Either way, expect a lot of switches.

The Nets will be without Kevin Garnett once again, who stayed in Brooklyn for the team’s road trip. That means Mason Plumlee slots back into the starting center spot, where he’s played well in Garnett’s absence, upping his rebounding rate, roaming the lane well enough to deter shots inside, and acting as a toy for Deron Williams’s alley-oops.

The Wizards pose a much bigger problem for the Nets inside. While Brooklyn’s been able to mostly mask their inside issues by forcing turnovers with their small lineup, they’ll have to keep the ball out of the paint against Washington; the Wizards employ a talented, interior-oriented seven-footer in Marcin Gortat, who has played an increased role in the team’s offense since they lost their other seven-footer, Nene, to a knee injury. He’s averaged 17 points and 11.2 rebounds per game in their last nine games since Nene went down. The Nets have had their struggles against bigger teams, and the Wizards pose that threat.

Tipoff at 7 P.M. on YES.