In Brooklyn, things are in flux. Blatche is gone for four games, the reason for which remains a mystery. Kirilenko still remains out with his back injury and Mirza Teletovic was easily the best player last night against Milwaukee.
The list goes on: Jason Kidd may have lost the team and Deron Williams recently called the season “a nightmare.”
Meanwhile, in Indiana, nearly everything is perfect. Danny Granger is back, Paul George is an MVP candidate and the Pacers own the best record in the Eastern Conference. The last time the Nets and Pacers played basketball, Indiana walked away with a 103-86 victory.
So, uh, tonight should be interesting. Right?
The Brooklyn Game crew breaks it down below.
Who guards Paul George? Who guards Roy Hibbert? Do they stand a chance?
Ben Nadeau: Alan Anderson better bring his big boy shorts tonight. Garnett and Evans, I guess, will probably guard Hibbert, which is a pretty big issue in of itself. I don’t know if they stand a chance, it just seems like they’re over-matched at every position other than point guard. I’m usually one of the more optimistic predictors here, but tonight might be a slaughter.
Chris Hooker: Paul George is unstoppable. But the Nets are blessed in the sense that they, too, have a big guard in Joe Johnson. He’s not the most lockdown defender of all time, but George’s mismatch is eliminated because of Joe. You could put Pierce on him as well when George plays the three. As far as Hibbert, put Garnett on him and hold your breath.
Justin DeFeo: Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce will be the key protagonists on George while Kevin Garnett and Mason Plumlee will get the most cracks on Hibbert. They stand a chance but are shallow on the wings and with Brook already sidelined and Blatche out the Nets are critically thin in the front court as well.
Who is the most important player for Brooklyn tonight?
Ben Nadeau: I guess Alan Anderson or Pierce, probably, whoever has to guard George. The Pacers run through PG24 and most of their big plays come from the MVP candidate. If they can annoy George, they’ll be a lot better off in the long run. Then they still have to deal with Granger, Hill, West, Stephenson…
Chris Hooker: It’s whoever is in charge of stopping Mr. Paul George. Whether it’s Joe, Pierce, Alan Anderson, the Nets need to stop this guy from scoring in bunches if they want a shot. Yikes.
Justin DeFeo: I answer this question almost the same every game and that’d be Deron Williams. He makes the Nets go and his penetration and playmaking will be even more critical against the stifling Indiana defense.
How does Brooklyn avoid being blown-out again?
Ben Nadeau: I’m not sure if it’s possible. Maybe if Mirza goes supernova and hits eight threes, we’ll only lose by 20. Garnett has to slow down Hibbert and Pierce/Anderson have to stick to George like glue. So, a checklist of a million things have to happen to avoid a blowout. Let’s just run screens all day for Mirza, sound good?
Chris Hooker: Nifty three point shooting, avoiding presence in the paint and flawless basketball. The Pacers are a hard-nosed, tough team. The Nets aren’t. They need to out muscle the Pacers and play strong defense and keep Hibbert and West from being gigantic and George from being the third best player in the league.
Justin DeFeo: Compete. There’s Loud rumblings that Kidd has lost the team. Nothing will be a better indication of where this team is at than a test against one of the NBA’s best teams.
Ben Nadeau: 100-75, every time I predict the Nets to win, they lose. So, perhaps some reverse jinxing here? I’ll never tell.
Chris Hooker: The Pacers will win by 20 points. Unless Mirza shoots 90% from three on ten shots. Man, I’m so bitter. Go Nets.
Justin DeFeo: Pacers 105, Nets 95