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In another crucial game, Brooklyn takes a trip to Washington

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Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport

Wow. With Kevin Garnett and Andrei Kirilenko both out due to injury, the Nets went into Miami to face the defending NBA Champions. And what happened? The Nets beat the Champs 96-95 and have won the season series. The schedule doesn't get any easier after this game. The Nets return to Brooklyn on Monday to play the upstart Suns before facing seventh seed Charlotte on Wednesday night.

The opponent this Saturday evening will be the Washington Wizards. who are one percentage point behind the Nets in sixth place in the East. The Wizards have been having a quality season and find themselves, like the Nets within striking distance of the number three seed. This is the second night of a back to back for the Wiz after winning in overtime at Orlando on Friday night.. Each of Washington's key players put in 40 minutes and Bradley Beal had to be helped off the court late in overtime with a sprained ankle. His status for the Nets is uncertain.  At 34-31, the Wizards are in line to make their first playoff appearance since the 2007-2008 season.

The last time the Nets played the Wizards, Brook Lopez was still playing. The Wizards lead the season series 2-0 and this is the last regular season meeting between the two clubs.

The season so far

What's up with these teams? Let's find out:





33-30 34-31


94.06 95.55

Offensive Efficiency

103.1 102.9

Defensive Efficiency

103.9 102.6

Offensive Rebounding percentage

21.8 25.3

Turnover rate

15.3 15

Assist rate

16.6 17.6

Rebound rate

47.1 50

Free throw rate

31.3 24.8

Effective Field Goal percentage

50.4 50.2

Opponent Effective Field Goal percentage

50.5 50.7

Kevin Garnett missed the Heat game on Wednesday and he'll be out for this one as well. Jason Kidd has said he hopes to have him back for Monday's game against the Suns. Andrei Kirilenko is a game-time decision against Washington.

Wednesday's game was the first poor game Deron Williams had this half. He only scored six points and was being criticized for a lack of aggressiveness and assertiveness on the Nets radio broadcast. However, he did hit a jumper late that put Brooklyn up by four. Even with that bad game, Williams has been having a great second half. He's had two poor games against Washington this season and will need to play better if the Nets want to hold onto the number five seed.

The last time Paul Pierce played Washington, he was coming off the bench as he returned from an injured hand. That night, he scored 27 points and banked on three from downtown. With Williams and Joe Johnson off their games, Pierce picked up for them against Miami. He began the week dealing with a shoulder injury he suffered against the Kings, but that appears to have been a minor inconvenience. He doesn't have the size to power through Trevor Booker so he figures to spend most of the evening on the perimeter.

Mirza Teletovic had his best game in about a month. Prior to Wednesday's game, he had hit four three pointers combined over his previous six games. He hit three alone on Wednesday and blocked three shots along with it. When he's playing well, he provides lots of spacing for the Nets and that allows more room for Williams and co. to operate.

On the other side, Nene is out for Washington. He's been out since February with a sprained MCL and while the team has a good record without him, they still need him for the playoffs. Bradley Beal sprained his ankle on Friday and is day-to-day. His status for this game is unknown.

If you've been online for any length of time, you've probably seen criticisms of teams that overly rely on midrange jumpers. When asked about his team's propensity for those shots by Truth About It's Kyle Weidie, here's what coach Randy Wittman told him:

"You take open shots. You take open shots. Where they are is dictated by what the defense does. If you predicate what kind of shot you’re going to take not based on what you’re doing reading the defense, you’re not going to get good shots. I just worry about goods shots.

"You know what? Those numbers you can stick… Alright? You know, all you analytical people that take that… You take good shots, that’s the most important thing. Maybe we’re not taking good midrange shots, maybe we’re taking contested ones. I understand the numbers are there for a reason, we look at the numbers, but to sit there and… We got a good, open shot we’re taking, I don’t care where it is."

The Wiz lead the league attempts per game from the midrange area. And as Weidie pointed out, they haven't been all that successful from that area. They only shot 37.3 percent, which places them solidly in the bottom of the league. Where they have been successful is from behind the arc. The Wizards have converted on 38.7 of their three pointers, second best in the league. A lot of their success from deep is due to Ariza, Beal, Martell Webster & even John Wall. More on Wall and Ariza in a moment.

John Wall didn't have the best shooting game in Orlando, but did hit four three pointers, including one that tied the game near the end of the fourth quarter and a crucial jumper in overtime. While Wall is most effective driving to the basket, he's steadily been improving his jump shot each season. He's at a respectable jump shooter and has worked to add the three pointer to his arsenal. His shot selection could stand to improve some, but that could be said for a lot of players.

Without Nene, Marcin Gortat will lead the frontcourt attack for Washington. The preseason acquisition is averaging a double-double this season, scoring 14 and grabbing ten rebounds a game. Brooklyn's lack of size should work in his favor, although ex Wizard Andray Blatche figures to give him trouble. He's not the greatest interior defender and it would be wise for the Nets to run a lot of plays for Blatche in the low post.

Player to watch: Trevor Ariza

It's been a career year for the former Laker. In 36 minutes a night, the wingman is averaging a career high 15.1 points and six rebounds while shooting a career best 42.8 percent from three point range. Known for being a solid defender, Ariza has helped Washinton's defense when he's on the court. The Wizards are four points better per 100 possessions with him on the court and force more turnovers as well. He's headed to free agency this summer and it doesn't seem likely that he'll remain in DC.

Ariza figures to start off defending Joe Johnson. Johnson is coming off a terrible game against Miami so look for him to be extra aggressive to make up for it. He does have the size advantage, but Ariza's length can compensate for it. On the other side of the ball, the Nets will look to play him tight in order to limit his three point shooting. He only takes about three shots a game from inside the restricted area, but he's still a capable finisher close to the basket. With Garnett out and Kirilenko banged up, the Wizards ought to break the spell of midrange jumpers and drive more to the basket.

From the Vault

Head back to Game 6 of the 2006 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals and watch LeBron James and Gilbert Arenas square off.


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