By: Jeremy Hyman
The Wizards are on the road for one final time this season and make their first stop in Brooklyn to take on the Nets tonight at Barclays Center (7:30 pm | TV: CSN | Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM). The Nets lead the season series, 2-1.
Although they have not officially been ruled out, there is a strong possibility that the Wizards will play these last two games without a slew of their key contributors. While Bradley Beal has already been ruled out for the season, he could be joined by Martell Webster (abdomen), Trevor Ariza (knee), and Nene (knee). While this will certainly hamper the Wizards attack, the bright side is that this will allow for some of the younger players to step up in these last two games and see a lot more time on the court. Look for Chris Singleton, Trevor Booker, Kevin Seraphin, and Jan Vesely to see extended minutes as they will be called upon to play in place of some of the injured veterans.
The Nets have already sealed the 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, but are waiting to find out who their opponent will be in the playoffs. They also could rest some of their stars, but want to start getting their rotations set for the playoffs.
The Nets' Deron Williams got off to a slower start this season, but has turned it on of late, scoring 30+ points in four of the Nets past six games. His season averages are now above his career marks and closer to his outstanding numbers from last year. The last time these two teams met, Williams had a game for the ages, hitting five three-pointers in the first five minutes of the game. He finished the game with 11 made three pointers and 42 points in a 95-78 win. The Wizards will need to pay close attention to Williams around the perimeter and make sure he does not go off on them again.
Besides Williams, the Nets will also rely on their big center Brook Lopez, who is the team's leading scorer averaging 19.4 ppg. Lopez has scored in double figures in all but six games this season and is their top threat on the post. While Lopez is their top offensive threat, Reggie Evans is the team's best rebounder averaging over 11 boards per game. Last night, Evans was held scoreless but did rip down 16 boards, which is not an unusual stat line for him. The Nets will also count on Joe Johnson to do much of their scoring, as he may be the team's most pure scorer and he is the guy to mark in big shot situations. It was Johnson who hit the game-winner to beat the Wizards at Verizon Center earlier this season.
The Wizards enter tonight on a four game losing streak and are hoping to gain a little bit of momentum for next season by closing out their season on a high note. They need to get back to their core defensive principles which has been an issue over the last week. They may be shorthanded, but that is something they have dealt with all season and they will need some of their younger talent to step up and get them a road win tonight.
The action kicks off at 7:30pm.
Since John Wall's return, the Wizards are 24-23 and their scoring and offensive efficiency have increased as Wall has opened up the floor for his teammates. Since March 1st, John Wall is averaging 22.9 points, 7.8 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game (25 games). During this stretch, Wall has 12 games of 20+ points, four games of 30+points and eight double-doubles.
Deron Williams had a season-high 42 points when these two teams met in Brooklyn last month, including 11 made three-pointers. The Wizards will need to do shut Williams down right from the start to avoid him getting hot early and putting the game out of reach.
In this clip, Wall spins and hits.