Tip-off: 7:00PM EST
(as of 4:00PM, Durent still listed as game-time-decision)
Key NJ players:
Brook Lopez – 18.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg
Devin Harris – 18.2 ppg, 6.8 apg
Potential key injuries –
The New Jersey Nets, oft-plagued with an occasional ray of sunshine (see: Jason Kidd years), are about to undergo a transformation in the next few years. They were recently purchased by Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov in 2009, and in 2012 they will be relocating to Brooklyn where they will likely get a new facelift and identity. Sadly for them, those exciting events have no bearing on this year’s mediocre at best group. They aren’t the sad sack that the Nets were a year ago, but they certainly are not good. They struggle in most aspects of the game, save for defense, which they are currently ranked 7th allowing only 96.2 points per game.
In order to avoid another let-down after a big win against the Hornets, here is the game plan for tonight:
- The Thunder shouldn’t have difficulty scoring points, so their energy would be best put to use by bringing strong defense early. The Nets are not a strong offensive unit, so any early hole they get put in will be that much more difficult for them to extricate themselves.
- Lopez just hung 36 on the Knicks, so he isn’t to be taken lightly. However, as a seven-footer he is not a rebounding force yet in the league. The Thunder will need to keep him away from the basket using their bigs. Lopez is their primary interior scoring threat, so the Thunder might want to consider using some strategic double-teams to get the ball out of his hands.
- Durant needs to be patient. There is no need for him to be cranking up three after three if they aren’t falling.
- Use the game to limit starters’ minutes.
- The game plan changes slightly if Devin Harris can’t go. In his place, Jordan Farmar will step in, and he is competent if not flashy. He can’t play at the same pace that Harris does, or Westbrook for that matter.
- I would love to see another 50+ rebound, 20+ assist type of game. It makes the game shorter, more efficient, and most likely, a win.
A final note on the Nets’ new coach, Avery Johnson. I’ve always liked him, dating back to when he played for the San Antonio Spurs. He enjoyed a meteoric coaching rise while with the Dallas Mavericks, taking them to the NBA finals in his second year, winning the NBA coach of the year award.
His descent was almost as rapid. In the next two seasons, despite strong regular seasons, the Mavericks lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Warriors and Hornets, respectively. He was fired soon after. As such, he joined the ranks of such coaches as Mike Brown and Scott Skiles as coaches who found quick success only to be fired a short time later.
Like Skiles (and to some degree, coaching legend Larry Brown), Johnson appears to be at his best working with young talent. He is noted as a bit of a control freak and taskmaster, which is good for young players but over time tends to grow old. He should be good for the Nets in the short term, with lowered expectations and mediocre competition in the Eastern Conference. Look for the team to surge in the next two years, but by then, it may once again be time for the “Little General” to move on.