Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Is this Nets' biggest game of the season?
By Mike Mazzeo
NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Nets reserve swingman Sasha Vujacic called Wednesday night's nationally televised game against the New York Knicks (7:30 p.m. EST, ESPN) the team's "biggest game of the season." He said this after the Nets were blown out by the Houston Rockets, 112-87, at the Prudential Center on Tuesday night.
So what does Nets head coach Avery Johnson think?
"Is that what he said?" Johnson said. "Great. Hopefully we’ll come out roaring like lions."
The question is, why did he say it?
"Probably a combo of things," Johnson said. "Hopefully it’s because we haven’t played well. There's other side shows and issues, hopefully we’ll just be ready to play. They should be excited. With this game being on national TV, hopefully we’ll have the type of performance where we’ll be invited again."
Don't forget, Johnson said the Nets were (paraphrasing here) better off with Williams than Knicks star swingman Carmelo Anthony.
"Sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make," Johnson said two weeks ago. "And that prospective trade that was reported [in January] where we were going to supposedly lose basically eight players [and get back Anthony, Chauncey Billups and Detroit’s Richard Hamilton], man that would have really gutted our team. So we’re glad that that didn’t happen.”
The only other thing Johnson addressed aside from reserve small forward Travis Outlaw being re-inserted into the starting lineup (also in the newser) was their recent slow starts.
Basically, he hopes they don't have them.
The Nets gave up 34 first-quarter points -- their second-highest total of the season -- and trailed by 13 after the opening 12 minutes on Tuesday night against the Rockets. It was just bookkeeping from there.
Lastly, ESPN NewYork.com's Knicks blogger, Jared Zwerling, gave me a call Wednesday afternoon and asked me for three things to watch for from the Nets in Wednesday night's game. Here's a summary of what we discussed:
WILL-ING TO RETURN
During point guard Deron Williams' six-game absence with an injured right wrist, the Nets have gone just 1-5. With D-Will returning tonight, Mike is curious to see how he shoots tonight. While he was 45.8 percent from the field and 34.5 percent from 3-point territory with the Jazz, he's sunk to 32.7 and 28.6 percent in those categories with the Nets. Mike says to also pay close attention to how he creates off his deadly crossover dribble (arguably the league's best) and his penetration-kickout playmaking with Anthony Morrow and Sasha Vujacic on the wings.
Mike says Johnson has referred to Williams, Damion James, Quinton Ross and Sundiata Gaines as his four-best perimeter defenders, but James (foot), Ross (herniated disk in his back) and Gaines (hip) are all out tonight. Only Williams is suiting up. That's not a good sign at all for the Nets, considering the Knicks knocked down 16 3-pointers in their last meeting.
KRIS ON STAT
The last time the Knicks and Nets met on February 12, Nets power forward Kris Humphries was on the verge of his breakout streak. From February 26 to March 20, Humphries (still better known as Kim Kardashian's beau) had 10 consecutive double-doubles, and in three of those games he had four blocks or more. While Stoudemire is coming off a full day of rest, during what he has called "the hardest month I've played in my career," he won't have it any easier tonight facing a very physical and improved Humphries.