The Nets will look to win five games in a row for the second time this season. A win would also be the third consecutive against the Magic this year, but Brooklyn will be playing without center Brook Lopez, who the team announced would miss, at least, the next two games.
Lopez out, Andray Blatche in
Lopez played well in both games against the Magic earlier this season. He notched a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds) in just 24 minutes in the first game and scored 20 points on 9-of-18 shooting in the second game.
But with Lopez out, Andray Blatche will be given the chance to show what he can do in extended minutes. He’s been a great find thus far and is coming off a 17-point, 13-rebound performance on Wednesday against the Celtics.
The Nets outrebounded the Magic 103-76 in the two previous games, so even without Lopez, Brooklyn still has the advantage on the glass. Kris Humphries alone grabbed 21 rebounds in the last meeting. Even so, Magic center Nikola Vucevic can be a rebounding force inside.
Chemistry of the Bench Mob
With Blatche starting, the “Bench Mob” will be put to the test. Jerry Stackhouse is coming off a stellar shooting performance (5-of-6 from three-point range) against the Celtics, and Reggie Evans continues to dominate the glass at both ends.
In this game though, expect to see Josh Childress, MarShon Brooks and maybe even Mirza Teletovic see some extra minutes. The Nets could experiment with a smaller frontcourt of Evans and Childress with a three-guard backcourt of a combination between Stackhouse, Brooks, Joe Johnson and C.J. Watson.
Avery Johnson has options here, but hopefully for the Nets, a quick return to action by Lopez will make this bench shuffling temporary.
Deron Williams vs. Jameer Nelson
Magic point guard Jameer Nelson was inactive for both games against the Nets, which allowed Deron Williams to control the pace of play. Nelson is averaging 13.0 points and 5.6 assists per game after dealing with groin and hamstring injuries.
Williams needs to be physical since he has a distinct size advantage over Nelson. Plus, Nelson’s minutes have been limited as he continues to regain strength.
A strong effort from Williams will be crucial to helping the Nets extend the winning streak to five.
No Let Down
The Nets are coming off two emotional victories against playoff contenders, the Knicks and Celtics. And they've probably spent considerable time preparing for the Miami Heat on Saturday. Before then, though, they face a rebuilding Magic team, who may have easily gone overlooked in the midst of three very tough opponents.
Brooklyn has to treat this like a rivalry game in order to keep up the intensity. It may be easy to slip into bad habits against an inexperienced team, but maybe playing without Lopez will spark the Nets to give maximum effort.
Just because the Nets earned two sound victories over Orlando already this season doesn’t mean the Magic will automatically fold, especially now that Nelson is back in the lineup.
The action tips off at 7 p.m. on the YES Network.