Thursday, November 8, 2007

Wizards-Nets Preview

By no means is this a do-or-die game for Washington. The 2007-2008 season is still just three games old, meaning there are 79 left to play. But tonight in Jersey, the Wizards desperately need to turn things around. Their once potent offense has put up enough bricks to build a new stadium...if you could build an arena with 173 maybe a small arena. Seriously, though, the Wiz are shooting a dismal 35.4% from the field and a woeful 20.3% from long range.
The Nets (3-1) are no cakewalk and have proven to be especially pesky for the Wizards - they swept Washington in the team's four meetings last season. However, if Gilbert Arenas & co. are gonna get their act together, this is a defense that can be exploited - particularly beyond the arc. The Nets are allowing opponents to shoot just 41.9% from the field, but they're giving up 39.7% from deep. Not great, but significantly better than what the Wiz have been able to muster so far.

Through the Nets first four games it's been high-flying forward Richard Jefferson - not superstar Vince Carter - who has led the team in scoring. Jefferson is averaging 25.8 points per contest to go along with 5.8 boards. No one expects Antawn Jamison to keep Jefferson in check, cause let's face it - AJ is far from a lockdown defender - but the Wiz will need to limit Jefferson with a rotation of quick, tall defenders (see Andray Blatche) to keep this game as close as it should be.

Key Match-Up

  • Jason Kidd v. Arenas/DeShawn Stevenson -- J-Kidd is a triple-double machine. His scoring isn't what it once was - he's averaging just 8.5ppg - but he still controls the flow of a game as well as anyone in the league. Like the Wiz, the Nets can run and gun with their long, athletic lineup featuring Jefferson, Carter, Antoine Wright and Jason Collins. But Kidd remains the key to Corvette. The main question here is not whether Stevenson (who should be matched up with Kidd on the defensive end) can lock down the seven-time All-Star, but if he can frustrate him enough to force the rest of the Nets to make plays. On the offensive side of the ball, the Hibachi needs to get it going pronto. After getting his knee drained yet again, Gil says he feels ready to go but only the nets (on the baskets) will show for sure if he's back to the Agent Zero that wreaks havoc on opposing defenses. Gilbert is shooting just 33% from the field and is 1-of-17 from three. That's got to change tonight for the Wizards to snap their three-game losing streak and put a crooked number in the win column.


  • "We need one. It's time for us to play like we know we can." - Caron Butler


The Nets are cruising and the Wiz are reeling, the perfect recipe for an 0-4 start in the District. But look for another solid game from Brendan Haywood - the lone bright spot thusfar for the Wiz with his 10 points and 13.7 boards per game - on the inside and improved shooting on the perimeter. Honestly, the percentages have to go up sometime, right?

Washington also needs better production from its bench. I said this would be the key to the season (see Wizards season preview) and thusfar, the young guns aren't gunning. Blatche and Antonio Daniels are averaging fewer than three points between them and while they should be getting more minutes (Blatche is averaging 9.7 and Daniels 15.7), they need to make better use of their time on the floor. Darius Songaila is doing his part - 8.3 points and 4 boards in 23 minutes a night - but the rest of the bench is really lagging. Expect Eddie Jordan to try a few more combinations tonight to keep the Big Three fresh and try to find a spark from one of his young role players.

I'll play the odds and take the Wiz by 4 in a close one.

-- The Tar Heel

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