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Nets begin 2015 in Orlando

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"Movin', to your town and situation"
"Movin', to your town and situation"
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Raise your hand if you saw that coming. I don't see anybody's hands up. The Brooklyn Nets traveled to Chicago to play the Bulls for the third time this season. The first two times they played, the Bulls won by 18 and 25 points. With that on our minds, it was such a shock to see the Nets dismantle the Bulls in Chicago. The Nets now reside in the seventh position in the Eastern Conference, one game behind the Milwaukee Bucks.

Ringing in 2015 with the Nets will be the Orlando Magic. They've struggled this year and are coming off a 23 point loss at home to the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday night. They haven't played since then, and the rest might do them some good. The Magic just finished a four games in five nights stretch.

Where to follow the game

YES Network will carry the game for the locals, NBATV for the out of towners. On the radio, WFAN is airing the New Jersey Devils vs. Montréal Canadiens (In Lou We Trust and Eyes on the Prize have got you covered on that end), so WCBS 880 AM is where you need to go.

Injuries

The Nets are 100 percent.

Aaron Gordon underwent surgery to fix a fractured foot and won't be back for a while.

The game

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

2014-2015 Season

Brooklyn Orlando

Record

15-16 13-22

Pace

94.54 94.58

Offensive Efficiency

100.9 99.2

Defensive Efficiency

103 104.5

Turnover Rate

15 15.8

Assist Rate

16.4 16.1

Offensive Rebounding Rate

23.2 21

Rebounding Rate

48.5 48.8

Free Throw Rate

27.8 23.2

Effective Field Goal Percentage

49 50.1

Opponent's Effective Field Goal Percentage

49.7 50.3

The Nets won the first meeting 104-96 on November ninth. That game stands out because Joe Johnson called out his teammates after the game was over.

There were concerns about the pairing of Mason Plumlee and Brook Lopez, but they looked pretty great against one of the league's best frontcourts. Lopez had one of his best games of the season, scoring 29 points in 32 minutes. What made it even better was that most of his shots came close to the rim. When he's on his game, Lopez is one of the better inside players in the league. Kevin Garnett had the last game off, but he'll be back and starting. Lopez will be coming off of the bench.

One thing you've come to expect from Channing Frye nine seasons into his career is good three point shooting and little else. Two months into his tenure with Orlando, he's remained true to form. He's shooting a career high 41.7 percent from three point range, but is sporting a career low rebound rate, free throw rate and career high turnover rate.

It's likely Deron Williams will be coming off of the bench again. Over at the mothership, Satchel Price wrote about this current arrangement:

What's particularly interesting is the thriving second unit with Williams leading the way. While Jack and the starters have been productive over the past six games, with the Nets outscoring opponents by 1.2 points per 100 possessions with Jack on the floor, it's actually the second unit powered by Williams that's really crushing opponents.

Over the past four games with Williams coming off the bench, the team is outscoring opponents by 8.5 points per 100 possessions when he's on the floor. As other teams dig into their reserves to toss out journeymen and young players, Lionel Hollins has his former all-star orchestrating the second unit, and it's allowed Williams to make an impact even as his shot has been off.

At some point, Williams is going to reenter the starting lineup. When he does, he's going to need to find his shot. Williams hasn't shot 40 percent or better from the field in a month (12 games).  He's done well setting his teammates up, but as the team's third best scoring option, Brooklyn is going to need more from him.

The early reports on Elfrid Payton's poor shooting are holding up. The rookie is only shooting 39 percent from the field, 16 percent from three point range (on 18 attempts to be fair) and 47 percent from the free throw line. Even with those struggles, he's averaging five assists a game in 25 minutes a night and the team's offense is basically the same whether he's on or off the court.

Player to watch: Victor Oladipo

Oladipo missed the first meeting with a facial fracture. He ended up missing nine games and made his season debut on November 14. Since he's been back, Oladipo has managed to improve on his play from last year. One change in his game is he's traded in his three pointers for shots closer to the rim.

Since he's been in the league, Oladipo has drawn comparisons to Miami's Dwyane Wade. Last March, ESPN's David Throrpe noted the comparisons and described what Victor could do to mimic Wade:

It's the craft part that Oladipo needs to study the most--seeing when to speed up, when to slow down, when to try the Eurostep, etc.--because finishing at a high level requires more than just jumping high when you are shorter than 6-foot-6

Sergey Karasev figures to draw the assignment of guarding Oladipo. Karasev has played respectably since he replaced Bojan Bogdanovic in the starting lineup on December 10, and one of the things that's helped him compared to last season is ball control. He's cut his turnovers in half. As it relates to defending Oladipo, if he can prevent him from driving to the basket, he'll keep him off of the free throw line and can limit the good looks Frye gets from deep.

From the Vault

After the Magic were swept by the Bulls in the 1996 Eastern Conference Finals, Shaquille O'Neal went west. Head back to the 1997 Playoffs and see if Penny Hardaway could lead the Magic to an upset win over Alonzo Mourning and the Miami Heat in the Conference Quarterfinals.

More reading: Orlando Pinstriped Post