Brooklyn and Philly face off in snowy New York City

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

When you're in as deep of a hole as the Brooklyn Nets are, there's no room for moral victories. Without Brook Lopez, they fell behind big in Detroit, rallied late, and came up a little short (and being on the receiving end of an egregious non-foul call), losing 103-99.

However, due to the ineptitude of the Eastern Conference, they find themselves only two games behind first place Boston even though they're seven games under .500. Lopez is questionable vs. Philly but "questionable" is better than "doubtful" and "doubtful" is better than "out." There's also some concern that Mirza Teletovic and Joe Johnson could be out. Both missed practice Sunday with undefined illnesses.

Lopez did tell a Nets fan at an autograph signing after practice Sunday that he has every intention of playing Monday and that the ankle "feels great". When asked if trainer Tim Walsh will let him play he said "Timmy is a dictator but I think we are good for tomorrow."

As for Andrei Kirilenko and Jason Terry, apparently they're one-to-two weeks away. And when you take into account how much time they've missed this season, it might be even longer before they're playing at the level Brooklyn needs them to be at.

The opponent this Monday night will be the Philadelphia 76ers. Over the past couple of years, there have been plenty of debates as to whether or not the Sixers should start their rebuilding program. Last offseason the team decided to rebuild, trading away All Star Jrue Holiday and not offering Sixer washout Andrew Bynum a contract.

For a while, they were fun to watch and playing competitive basketball. However, their circumstances have caught up to them and they've been in a slump over the past month. They've lost six straight games and are coming off a 39 point beat down at the hands of the Trailblazers.  They've also been the subject of trade rumors this weekend, with Marc Stein and others reporting that the Rockets could deal Omer Asik to Philly for either Thad Young or Spencer Hawes. The trade is unlikely to be completed by game time, but if either is held out, that could be a signal.

After this game, they'll head home and have a few days off before playing the Nets again on Friday night.

The season so far

What's the story with these teams? Let's check it out:

Metric

Brooklyn

Philadelphia

Record

8-15 7-18

Pace

93.19 101.68

Offensive Efficiency

101.1 97.8

Defensive Efficiency

107 105.9

Offensive Rebounding percentage

24.6 25.7

Turnover rate

15.3 17.2

Assist rate

15.5 16.4

Rebound rate

49.2 49.7

Free throw rate

33.4 25.7

Effective Field Goal percentage

47.9 48.8

Opponent Effective Field Goal percentage

51 52

With Lopez expected to be back in action, the Nets should have a ton of success inside. With Brook's dominant season on offense and Andray Blatche playing well as of late, Brooklyn has the low post edge over Philadelphia. The only big man in Philadelphia's rotation that could pose a problem for Lopez is Spencer Hawes and he isn't a particularly great defender. Daniel Orton, Hawes' back-up is suspended for an altercation with Meyers Leonard on Saturday night.

Even though they've been struggling lately, the Sixers can pose a problem for the Nets. Throughout this season, quick, athletic teams have given the Nets trouble. Philadelphia is young, athletic, and play extremely fast. As of this writing, they lead the league in pace, averaging close to 102 possessions per game. Earlier in the year, Philly's strategy of running at every opportunity worked, but it looks as if the league has caught onto them. Here's Alec Nathan of TrueHoop's Hoop 76:

The Sixers are facing an uphill climb when it comes to improving in a number of areas on the offensive end. For instance, while they are running the floor as often as offensive powerhouses like the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder, they aren’t finishing in transition the way you’d expect. The team currently ranks second-to-last in terms of efficiency in transition, mustering a shade under one point per possession in those situations, according to Synergy (subscription required). While that low number may be due in part to an increase in transition opportunities (18.3 percent of the team’s offense comes in transition, the most of any one play-type), it’s worth noting that last year’s Sixers scored 1.08 points per possession in transition. This year they’re managing just 0.99 points per possession in similar situations.

More importantly, the Sixers defense has been one of the league's worst. And while the Sixers are eleventh in opponent turnover rate, the strategy hasn't been as successful as it needs to be. Teams have an effective field goal percentage of 52 against Philly, fourth highest in the league. This is fueled largely thanks to teams shooting 37 percent from three and taking 28 shots per game from inside the restricted area. Philly's failure in defending the three point line bodes well for Mirza Teletovic. He had another big game on Beyonce day Friday and should see some extended minutes for this contest.

The beauty of playing fast is that you get a ton of opportunities to shoot the ball. The problem for the Sixers is the roster isn't capable of taking advantage of all of their opportunities. They lead the league in attempts inside the restricted area and are seventh in three point attempts. Unfortunately for them, they are fourth worst in three point efficiency and are in the bottom half of the Association in success inside the restricted area. With Michael Carter Williams out due to a knee infection, Tony Wroten will get the start. He has the skills to be a decent player, but is at a severe mismatch going against Deron Williams. D-Will has been playing at the level we saw in the second half of last season since he returned from the ankle injury and figures to dominate the Sixers backcourt.

Player to watch: Evan Turner

If he were drafted in any other position than second, Evan Turner would be seen as a pretty decent player to have. However, when he was drafted that high back in 2010, a lot of expectations were placed on him. He's been a mostly decent player but not enough to get the Sixers close to contention. As you would expect, he's on the trading block and will probably be on another team by the deadline in February. This year he's had to take on more scoring responsibility on offense and he has improved from seasons' past. He has career highs in points per game, free throws per game, usage rate, and true shooting percentage. The only problem is that his true shooting percentage of 52 isn't as high as it needs to be.

He figures to be defending Johnson for much of the night. Johnson is a heady player and good ballhandler so he should be able to exploit Turner and Philadelphia's aggressive defense. On offense, Turner should have plenty of opportunities at the free throw line. The Nets have a tendency to commit fouls (fourth highest opponent free throw rate in the league this year) and Turner has been very successful (by his standards) inside the restricted area this year. He should be looking to drive to the basket at every opportunity.

From the Vault:

Head on back to Game 7 of the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals and relive one of Allen Iverson's greatest games.


More reading: Liberty Ballers

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