The Suns and Nets try to rise in the playoff standings

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

That didn't end well. After beating Miami in Miami on Wednesday night, the Nets went to DC to play the Washington Wizards. After a great first half, the Nets weren't able to slow down John Wall, Drew Gooden (!!!!!) and the rest of the Wizards in the second half. At 33-31, Brooklyn is one game behind Washington for the fifth seed and 3.5 games behind Toronto for the Atlantic Division lead.

Making the visit to Brooklyn this St. Patrick's Day evening will be the Phoenix Suns. Going into the season, practically everyone expected the Suns to finish near the bottom of the Western Conference. That belief seemed to strengthened when the Suns traded Marcin Gortat right before the start of the season. However, the Suns have surprised everyone and are within striking distance of the eighth seed. They have a few tough games left in March, then the difficulty goes all the way up in April. Here's their schedule: home for the Clippers, at Portland, home for Oklahoma City, at New Orleans, at San Antonio, at Dallas, home for Memphis before closing out in Sacramento. Of that group, only Sacramento and NOLA are out of playoff contention and there are three Championship contenders in that stretch as well. This is the last game of their three game road trip and the second night of a back-to-back after beating Toronto on Sunday afternoon.

The last time the Nets played Phoenix, this happened:


The season so far

What's the story here? Let's find out:

2013-2014

Brooklyn

Phoenix

Record

33-31 38-28

Pace

93.98 98.32

Offensive Efficiency

103.2 106.9

Defensive Efficiency

104 104

Offensive Rebounding percentage

21.7 26.8

Turnover rate

15.3 15.6

Assist rate

16.6 14.9

Rebound rate

47.1 50

Free throw rate

31.3 29.6

Effective Field Goal percentage

50.5 51.6

Opponent Effective Field Goal percentage

50.5 49.5

Kevin Garnett hopes to make his return on Monday. Garnett hasn't played this month as he has been dealing with back spasms. Fortunately for Brooklyn, they've gone 6-2 in his absence.

After a solid first half, Deron Williams was thoroughly outplayed by John Wall in the second half (primarily the third quarter) of the game on Saturday night. After playing well for much of the second half, Williams has struggled over the past two games. It doesn't get any easier for him this week as he'll be dealing with the Eric Bledsoe/Goran Dragic combination on Monday, Kemba Walker on Wednesday, and Rajon Rondo on Friday.

It's gonna be a family affair on Monday night. If I'm not mistaken, this is the first game in league history with two sets of brothers appearing in the same game. For Brooklyn, Mason Plumlee has made the most of his opportunities with the Nets this year. On a per 36 minute basis, Mason is averaging 14 points and eight rebounds. He isn't much of a defender at this point in time, but that stands to (hopefully) change as he gains more experience. Big brother Miles gets more playing time and is making the most of his opportunities, averaging close to a double-double a night in about 26 minutes a night. Miles can stand to improve his rim protection, but like Mason, he's already a solid contributor in the league.

Before Bledsoe went down to injury, he was having a hell of a breakout season. In those 24 games, he averaged 18 points, 5.8 assists and 4.3 rebounds a night in 33.5 minutes a game. Bledsoe is at his best when he's driving to the basket, but is starting to expand his range to include three pointers. He's also a strong defender and will work to keep Deron Williams from having a big game.

Along with Bledsoe stands Dragic. Dragic has been the Suns' best player and leads the team in multiple statistical categories. Obviously, it's bad form to leave a jump shooter open, but it takes on even more importance with the Dragon. Friend of the site John Schumann has more here. Shaun Livingston will be the one responsible for slowing Dragic down. Dragic is a quick guard that loves to drive to the basket and spends a good amount of time at the free throw line. Livingston's length and quickness should work to deter Dragic's drives to the basket and keep him taking contested jumpers.

Player to watch: Gerald Green

The former Net has been having a career year for the Suns. He entered the starting five when Bledsoe tore his meniscus, but now that Bledsoe is back, Green is back in the sixth man role. After his successful stint in New Jersey back in 2011-2012, Green moved on to Indiana. He didn't play as well as expected and was moved to Phoenix in the summer. It wasn't viewed that way at the time, but that trade was the steal of the offseason. With the Suns, Green is averaging close to 16 points and a true shooting percentage of 57.5 in 29 minutes a night. Green is most known for his dunks, but he's most comfortable operating from the perimeter, especially the three point line. What's the best way to describe him? Sean Sullivan over at Bright Side of the Sun does it well:

I've never seen him in uniform this season. Instead, I've seen one of the most electrifying, incendiary players in the game continuously step up and knock down huge shots to lift the team and rally the fans. Gerald Green has become, in my opinion, the most surprising player in the entire league. Not only has he proven to be a quality starter when thrust into that position in the absence of Eric Bledsoe, he has become one of the Suns' biggest offensive threats.

Green and Joe Johnson will match up on Monday night. Johnson has almost 30 pounds on Green and has been very successful when he heads down to the block. Johnson works best on the left side of the court and that's where the Nets figure to run their plays for him. The Suns are worse defensively with Green on the court, and with Deron Williams in a bit of a slump, look for Johnson to get a lot of shot attempts in this contest. When Green is on offense, he should look to drive to the basket more often than he usually does. With the Nets short on depth in the frontcourt and Mason Plumlee's propensity to commit fouls, it would be in Phoenix's best interest for Green to drive to the basket at every opportunity.

From the Vault

This series ended well for Phoenix, but damn...


More reading: Bright Side Of The Sun

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