New Orleans will welcome the Nets Monday night at the Smoothie King Center and they'll represent an excellent test for a Pelican team that has recently found some footing. Fresh off a win against the Miami Heat, Monty Williams' squad will be gunning for their 7th win in their last 10 games. However, it's going to be far from easy as Brooklyn has been on some kind of run. 12-3 in their last 15 and 27-10 since the start of 2014.
Most impressively, all of their wins have come without the services of original starting frontcourt. Brook Lopez was lost for the season back in December due to a broken right foot. Meanwhile, Kevin Garnett has missed 12 straight and will add at least several more to that total as he didn't accompany the team on their 3-game road trip.
The biggest reason the Nets have survived the injury woes has been their depth. So although Deron Williams, Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson have been solid, the contributions from Shaun Livingston, Andray Blatche, Mason Plumlee, Andrei Kirilenko and Mirza Teletovic have saved their season.
Since the New Year, the Nets have been playing really well on both sides of the ball. They have the 6th best defensive rating and force opponents into more turnovers per 100 possessions than any other team in the league. Offensively, they are well adept at putting the ball through the hoop: top-10 eFG% and TS%.
3 things to watch for:
- Staying Small. Against the Heat, Monty started Roberts-Evans-Aminu-Babbitt-Davis. Considering the Nets begin games with Pierce at the 4, it makes sense to stick with the small starting lineup. If Eric Gordon is able to return, one would assume Babbitt would return to the bench.
- Owning the Glass. If the Nets have one glaring weakness, it's rebounding. They allow opponents a ridiculous 28.7 offensive rebound percentage. Expect the Pelicans to grab 10+ OREB and for either Davis or Aminu to have a huge evening.
- Brian Roberts Minutes. In our last meeting, Williams had a very quiet game as he only played 25 minutes. Granted, there wasn't a pressing need with the Nets sporting a 23 point advantage at halftime, but expect a much different result this time around. If Williams gets hot, will Monty turn to Austin Rivers or does Evans become the primary ball handler with either him/Gordon/Morrow attempting to slow down the Nets PG?