Tonight, the 3-11 Nets try to handle their first road victory, manning up against the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors are on the final game of their four-game road trip, standing at 2-1 on the trip and 5-8 on the season.
Star point guard (though he’s also a “shooting” guard) Stephen Curry is out for the Warriors, as is center Kwame Brown as he recovers from pectoral surgery. The Warriors, known for their high-octane offense in years past, have tempered their running and gunning slightly under new coach Mark Jackson — they rank just 12th in possessions per game at 92.5, down from 5th/94.8 a year ago and 1st/100.4 in 2009-10.
The Nets enter tonight with some minor lineup changes; undrafted Dennis Horner has been waived in favor of D-League Larry Owens, and the Nets also sent 2nd-round pick Jordan Williams to the Springfield Armor. Shawne Williams and Damion James are not expected to play, as both deal with injuries.
Joining us to answer some questions on tonight’s game is J.M. Poulard of WarriorsWorld. I also helped J.M. preview tonight’s game over on WarriorsWorld in a back-and-forth, and while we take different roads we come to the same conclusion.
1. New Jersey’s X-factor is…
- Sandy Dover: Deron Williams. If he’s able to assist on the right plays and have freedom to score without relative retribution from Golden State, the Nets have a fighting chance to win the game. It won’t be easy, but he can make all the difference, even against Nate Robinson and Monta Ellis.
- Devin Kharpertian: Mehmet Okur. If Okur’s hitting his outside shots, that pulls Ekpe Udoh and Andris Biedrins out of the lane, opening up opportunities for the Nets to slash and dish inside. Biedrins isn’t a great defensive player, but Udoh is — but not when he’s displaced.
- J.M. Poulard, WarriorsWorld: The Nets’ X-Factor is their transition defense. It has been porous for most of the season, and should it fail to show up against the Warriors, New Jersey will be in tons of trouble. Dorrell Wright, Brandon Rush, Nate Robinson, and Dominic McGuire have fed off transition opportunities and are more than happy to get out and run for easy scores. But the most potent weapon is none other than Monta Ellis, who has been seemingly unstoppable in transition so far this season thanks in large part to his speed, quickness and uncanny ability to finish with either hand once he gets to the rim.
2. Golden State’s X-factor is…
- Sandy Dover: Nate Robinson. Personally, I’m sick of teams giving up on him, and after being let go from Oklahoma City, he’s made some changes to his game. If Nate exploits the Nets with quickness, penetration, and shooting (his trademark attributes), the Warriors have an excellent chance of playing winning ball.
- Devin Kharpertian: David Lee. Lee’s looked more like the player the Warriors signed on to in 2010 this season than last; he’s leading the team in rebounds and player efficiency rating, and is averaging a 20-10 thus far. The Nets don’t have many weapons to stop him defensively, they can only hope Shelden Williams and Kris Humphries are up to the task.
- J.M. Poulard: The Warriors’ X-Factor is none other than David Lee. With Monta Ellis struggling to convert shots from the field lately, the Dubs have grown dependent on Lee’s contributions on offense and he has delivered. He’s been terrific finishing at the basket on the catch, but he’s also now showing off a low post game that most never knew he had. As odd as it sounds right now, as Lee goes, so do the Warriors.
3. And the winner is…
- Sandy Dover: The Warriors are streaking hot, and I think they’ll win this game tonight. They have advantages at every position against New Jersey, and with a good vibe going, I feel that they can make the Nets pay tonight.
- Devin Kharpertian:I’m picking the Nets to pull out their first home victory. They’ll have the allotment for energy — the Warriors are on their last leg of a four-games-in-five-nights East Coast trip, and the Nets had a day off yesterday and two more coming afterwards. If they can take advantage of their scheduled gift, they should eke this one out.
- J.M. Poulard: The Warriors started out their eastern road trip in Charlotte by barely playing with any energy and got pummeled early in the contest and lost. In the ensuing games in Detroit and Cleveland, they managed to put in some effort, grit and mental toughness, which resulted in victories. Given that this is the last game of the trip, I can see them taking their foot off the gas pedal a bit only to find out by halftime that they are in for a tough game on the road as Jersey takes advantage of their lax approach and stuns them late.