The Brooklyn Nets are in Washington tonight to take on the Washington Wizards, who have lost three of their first four games. The Wizards are led by John Wall, but have a solid overall starting five, boasting sophomore Bradley Beal and veterans Trevor Ariza, Nene, and Marcin Gortat. The Nets and Wizards are historically intertwined for reasons I rambled about this morning.
The Nets can expect a healthy dosage of boos for one of their bench players, Andray Blatche, who, uh, Wizards fans don’t like very much.
When & Where: 7 P.M. EST, Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.
Watch: YES Network
Listen: CBS 880 AM
Injury report: Nets forward Paul Pierce is a game-time decision after missing shootaround with an illness. He’s officially listed in the starting lineup. Tornike Shengelia and Tyshawn Taylor aren’t injured, but they’ve been sent to Springfield to go through training camp with the team’s D-League affiliate, Springfield Armor. That means the Nets may only dress 12 tonight.
Our roundtable on tonight’s X-Factors below:
1. The X-Factor for the Washington Wizards is…
- Justin DeFeo: Interior defense. Brook Lopez has been getting more paint buckets than Benjamin Moore, with no sign of slowing down. How the Wizards interior beef deals with that is going to go a long way towards their chances at winning.
- Devin Kharpertian: John Wall. He is the engine that makes the Wizards go, and he’s got the perfect blend of speed and court vision that could decimate a plodding Nets roster if he’s firing on all cylinders. It’s early in the season, but Wall is already second in the league in points created by assists per game, behind only Chris Paul, and second in the league in hockey assists. He could have a field day picking apart Brooklyn’s perimeter defense tonight.
- William Rausch: Interior defense. The Wizards have allowed over 100 points per game in the admittedly tiny sample of four games to start their season. So defense in general needs a wee bit of tweaking, but special attention needs to be paid down low to a Nets team that just scored 58 points in the paint on Tuesday against the Utah Jazz. Nene and Marcin Gortat did a decent job against the Sixers on Wednesday, but Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez are a a much different duo than Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young.
2. The X-Factor for the Brooklyn Nets is…
- Justin DeFeo: Competitive Spirit. We’ve already seen the Nets lay a stinker on the road to an inferior opponent, promptly followed by a classic Kevin Garnett verbal beatdown. The Nets can expect seeing an opponents best each night and they’ll need an equal return of fire.
- Devin Kharpertian: Deron Williams. Not to pick point guards back-to-back, but Williams hasn’t been 100% since the beginning of the season, and we saw only glimpses of what Williams can do in the first three quarters against Utah. With two full days of rest heading into tonight’s game, hopefully Williams is healthy enough that he can do some real damage.
- William Rausch: Subterranean Homesick Blues. The Nets are winless on the road this season, and while that’s only two games, it’s annoying. With the back end of a back-to-back back in Brooklyn looming against a top-flight opponent in the Indiana Pacers, the Nets can’t overlook this game. They need to go into our nation’s capital and shutdown (AMIRITE!?) the Wizards for their first road victory of the season. Then they should listen to some Dylan on the trip back to NYC. Can’t you just imagine Andray Blatche and Reggie Evans on the plane, breaking down the literary references on Bringing It All Back Home?
3. And the winner is…
- Justin DeFeo: The Nets will use their size advantage to hurt the Wizards on both ends, enough so to get a road win. Also, John Wall impresses.
- Devin Kharpertian: If Pierce plays: Nets win, 99-92. If he doesn’t: Nets win, 95-91. They have to win on the road sometime, right?
- William Rausch: Nets win, 105-100.