Apr 11, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (24) defends against Washington Wizards guard Jarell Eddie (8) during second half at Barclays Center. The Washington Wizards defeated the Brooklyn Nets 120-111. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
The Brooklyn Nets are desperate for a win after dropping two straight against the Milwaukee Bucks. With both losses having been decided by a 10+ point margin, the Nets enter the game as a six-point underdog.
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Just like the Nets, the Wizards have lost two straight games. The losses came against two of the league’s premier teams in the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs. Though the loss to the Thunder was by an 11-point margin, the Wizards gave the Spurs a run for their money, but ultimately lost the game by two points.
The Nets (5-14) rank 14th in the Eastern Conference, one and a half games behind the Wizards (6-12).
The storyline for this game surrounds the anticipated debut of Nets’ 2016 first-round draft pick Caris LeVert. The Nets are in need of a boost, and LeVert will look to give them exactly that.
Nov 29, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) watches from the bench during the third quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Both in the scoring category and rebounding category, the Nets need more from Brook Lopez. In the Nets’ past two losses, Lopez has averaged 14 points to go along with four rebounds. As the Nets’ only true center, four rebounds will not get the job done against Marcin Gortat, who is averaging over 12 rebounds on the season.
As far as scoring goes, both Lopez and the Nets know 14 points per game is unacceptable. Lopez is supposed to be a player the Nets can rely on for scoring. After shooting 17.6 percent from the field in the last game, Lopez has been the opposite of that. Expect Lopez to receive his fair share of opportunities from beyond the arc, an area where Lopez has excelled this season. The bottom line is simply that Lopez needs to be more beneficial to this team if the Nets want to compete against the Wizards.
If there is one area the Nets need to direct their total focus, it is in stopping John Wall. The All-Star point guard is red-hot, coming off of a 17 point/15 assist double-double outing. On the season, Wall is averaging 22.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, 9.7 assists, and two steals per game. With Jeremy Lin still sidelined due to injury, Isaiah Whitehead is in line to get the start, which means he is in for the task of guarding Wall. Whitehead is coming off a performance in which he let up 18 points to Matthew Dellavedova. Thus, it is hard to imagine how the Nets can possibly expect Whitehead to contain Wall. Whatever the game plan may be, the Nets need to figure out how to limit Wall.
Nov 23, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets point guard Isaiah Whitehead (15) talks to point guard Jeremy Lin (7) during the first quarter against the Boston Celtics at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Many questions surround the Nets’ starting lineup for Monday night. With Hollis-Jefferson already having been eased into action, it is likely he will replace Sean Kilpatrick in the starting lineup. Then again, the Nets may want to keep Kilpatrick in the lineup, in which case they could pull Whitehead from the lineup by starting Kilpatrick at point guard. Additionally, Trevor Booker missed the Nets’ last game with an illness, so his status remains up in the air. If Booker is out, Anthony Bennett should get the start as he did last game.
Brook Lopez vs. Marcin Gortat: Here is your matchup of the night. It is the battle of the big men in Brooklyn. With Lopez’s continuous struggles on the boards, Gortat enters the game with a heavy advantage in that area. Meanwhile, Lopez will look to gain some momentum in the scoring department. On the defensive side of the ball, Lopez shouldn’t have too much of a challenge, as Gortat is averaging just 11.8 points per game. Keep an eye on these two in what should be a physical matchup on both ends of the floor.