Time to Beat the Nets

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Published: March 1, 2009

Sorry – I have no good puns to use with “Nets”.  What a crappy team name.

Before I get to the game preview, I wanted to brag a little.  Niall and I have been having a bit of success with the site recently, Joining ESPN’s Truehoop Network and all that, but I wanted to share how well we’ve been doing over this new season.

We installed a new traffic tracker last year, and our first full month’s data was for last February.  I’m proud to announce that this February, our traffic has more than doubled.  In fact, the only month we’ve had more traffic than February 2009 was May 2008, when we were covering the playoffs.

It feels good, and is pretty exciting.  I wanted to thank you all for your support and commentary.  Oh, and for those of you who go to the Hornet’s games, be sure to provide us with some commentary here.

On to the game.

Matchup: Hornets(35-22) @ Nets(26-32)

Off Efficiency: Hornets 106.7(8th), Nets 105.1(15th)
Def Efficiency: Hornets 103.5(10th), Nets 107.9(25th)

The Hornets will arrive in New Jersey to face a well-rested Nets team that has had three consecutive days without a game.  The Nets are trying to make a playoff push and snare that last spot in the east, but are having trouble being consistent, stringing together two five-game losing streaks, as well as a four-game winning streak in the last month.

As a team New Jersey isn’t really terrible at anything – but they aren’t good at anything either.  The rank somewhere between 10th and 20th at pretty much everything on the offensive end.  Defensively, they rank between 13th and 23rd at everything but one thing:  Three point shooting defense, where they are the second worst team in the league.  If the Hornets are on target from deep tonight, expect the Nets to pay dearly.

Injuries

Hornets: Mo Pete is finally clear to play.  I doubt that means he will.
Nets: None

Positional Analysis

PG: Devin Harris v Chris Paul
Advantage: Hornets
The last time the Hornets and Nets played, Devin Harris couldn’t hit a shot to save his life as he struggled through some nagging injuries.  Expect him to be better tonight.  The Nets star isn’t actually that good of a shooter(44% and 32% shooting from the field and 3-Point line), but he ends up being highly efficient because his burst of speed when closing on the basket allows him to draw 9.2 free throws a game.  That’s tops amongst point guards, and nearly the highest in the league.  Chris Paul, who has really come into his own defensively this year(according to most reliable stats) will be able to give him some trouble, but expect Devin to still pour in some points.

SG: Vince Carter v Rasual Butler
Advantage: Nets
Vince is treated with contempt by most writers after having been labeled a quitter.  You won’t see me ripping his ability, though.  He’s got a nice all around game, averaging 20-5-5 and is still one of the best finishers in the league.  He doesn’t turn over the ball often, and has a bunch of ways to score.  Carter’s offensive skill set, however, is in Rasual Butler’s wheelhouse defensively.  He’s not too speedy, and while he’s strong, he prefers not to use it consistently.  Rasual will do a decent job against him – and the Nets like giving up open three-point shots, so Butler should cash in tonight.

SF: Trenton Hassell v Peja Stojakovic
Advantage: Hornets
Hassell gets his time for being a defensive stopper – but he hasn’t been a good defensive stopper since he was backed up by Kevin Garnett.  He only plays 20 minutes, and contributes almost nothing offensively, averaging only three points and two rebounds.  Peja should be able to come of screens and get open shots pretty easily here.  Let’s just hope he knocks them down.

PF: Yi Jianlin v David West
Advantage: Hornets
The Nets and Bucks both hoped Yi could develop into a taller version of David West – maybe even into Dirk Nowitzki – but it’s not really happening.  Yi has proven he’s got a nice deep shot, but he’s got no real abilities to score near the basket, and his fascination with the perimeter makes him a weak rebounder, and he provides no defense to speak of.  West will punish him with his superior strength in the paint.

C: Brook Lopez v Tyson Chandler
Advantage: Hornets
This is all assuming that Tyson continues to play at the level he has since he’s come back.  The big man has been averaging thirteen points and twelve rebounds since his return, and has helped open up the offense by being his usual alley-oop threat.  Brook Lopez is going to be a pretty good center for a long time in the league, especially if he figures out how to finish around the basket while drawing fouls.  When a big man takes 10 shots around the basket per game, you really expect him to get more than 2 fouls shots per contest.  Once he gets that down, his effectiveness will really rise.

Bench
Advantage: Nets
Keyon Dooling, Bobby Simmons, Sean Williams, Ryan Anderson and Jarvis Hayes take up most of the bench minutes.  Anderson has recently fallen out of favor, and didn’t play last game, so I’m not sure we’ll see him.  Dooling is a nice backup point guard, and particularly adept at driving and kicking for open shots.  He plays a role for the Nets much like Jannero Pargo did last year for the Hornets – playing a good 25 minutes while playing hard defense and being aggressive offensively.  Bobby Simmons is pretty much a spot up shooter now, but he’s fairly effective at it.  Sean Williams is a freak athelete who can block shots, but that’s about it – his skill set and discipline is limited and it hurts his rebounding and scoring numbers badly.  Jarvis Hayes is a reliable veteran wing, who produces little but won’t kill you.  I like Dooling – and would prefer this bench over the one the Hornet’s roll out.

Enjoy the game.

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