After Wednesday night’s loss to the Washington Wizards, the 9-16 Brooklyn Nets bemoaned their two biggest weaknesses: keeping teams off the glass (they allowed 19 offensive rebounds) and running them off the three-point line (they’ve allow opponents to shoot 40.6 percent from deep, worst in the NBA).
Tonight, they have a chance to correct those mistakes. They’ll take on the 7-19 Philadelphia 76ers for the second time this week, four days after blowing them out 130-94 in Brooklyn behind Joe Johnson’s record-tying three-point performance. The 76ers are one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the NBA, and the Nets did an excellent job limiting Spencer Hawes, Philadelphia’s lone long-range threat.
But the 76ers will have one player on the floor that they sorely missed: rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams. Carter-Williams missed seven games with an infection in his right knee, and the 76ers lost all seven games. On the season, Carter-Williams leads all rookies in points per game (17.7), rebounds per game (5.8), assists per game (7.3), three-pointers made per game (1.5), and leads the entire NBA in steals per game (3.1).
Nets point guard Deron Williams loves a challenge, and upon hearing that Carter-Williams would play tonight, his voice perked up. “Great!” he said after the team’s morning shootaround. “They’re a different team without him. With him in there, the pace changes, the tempo changes, he causes a lot of problems in the defense which leads to a lot of easy offense for them. He’s a great young point guard trying to make a name for himself, and so it’s going to be a good matchup.”
There’s a good chance that the Nets will play tonight without shooting guard Joe Johnson, who is away from the team for personal reasons. He’s officially listed as a game-time decision, but he did not attend the team’s morning shootaround and the players don’t expect him to play. Johnson is the only starter who’s played in every game this season, and losing him is just another hit to the team’s continuity. According to research done by Tom Haberstroh of ESPN, the Nets have used more five-man combinations than any team in the NBA this season.
“We’ve been dealing with stuff all year, guys being in and out of the lineup,” Williams admitted in shootaround. “So if we’re not kind of used to it by now… It’s sad.”
It’s not clear who will start in place of Garnett (and perhaps Johnson) yet, as Kidd noted he hadn’t made a decision. Mirza Teletovic started at the power forward position against the 76ers Monday night, but that was next to Garnett, not Lopez. With Lopez’s rebounding issues cropping up this season, the Nets may elect to use Reggie Evans or Andray Blatche instead.