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Big game at Barclays as Nets, Hornets look toward playoffs

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Charlotte Hornets v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The Nets took an ugly loss to the Wizards on Wednesday. Just an all around poor performance. The final score ended up being 125-116 but that was mostly due to a big Nets fourth quarter and by the time it happened the game was already over. At the end of the third, the score was 101-79, Wizards. Not great!

The energy and chemistry just seemed off the entire game, and the players frustration could be seen on their faces at times. Losing to a team you should beat it frustrating, and it happens to everyone. The Celtics lost to the Bulls last week! I’m not panicking yet, is what I’m saying.

Brooklyn does need to bounce back with a good performance against Charlotte on Friday though. They’ll be home for the final matchup with the Hornets for the season, and so far two out of the three contests have been wild ones. The Nets are up 2-1 against their playoff seed rivals, and a win might even knock Charlotte out of the playoff picture all together, They’re in ninth place, percentage points behind Orlando.

And don’t forget, the Nets will fly out of New York for a back-to-back Saturday in Miami, where the Heat, although struggling, are still in the playoff hunt.

Let’s get into it.

Where To Follow The Game

YES and WFAN at 7:30pm, ET.

Injuries

The Nets are healthy. The Nets are healthy. The Nets are healthy. Spencer Dinwiddie was cleared Thursday. Dzanan Musa will be with Long Island but he’s fine. It’s the first time since Opening Night in 2017!

The Hornets are healthy.

The Game

One of the main reasons for the Nets loss to the Wizards was their inability to hit their perimeter shots. This is just kind of how Kenny Atkinson’s offense is set up. They beat the Spurs by shooting 38 percent from three on 50 attempts, and lost to Washington by shooting 29% on 39 attempts. Perimeter shooting is volatile. They’re going to need to hit their open looks in order to beat the Hornets, who have seen plenty of the Nets this season.

Kemba Walker has scored 35, 29, and 32 points against the Nets this season. He was mostly contained through the first two and a half quarters of their most recent matchup, but he went into Sicko Mode at the end of the game and brought his team all the way back.

I wrote about how Spencer Dinwiddie was and is an important piece for the Nets because he helps to stop opposing runs by getting to the basket, but he also helps on defense by just being a pair of fresh legs. He’s pretty good at slipping around or under screens despite his size, and against someone like Kemba Walker who has such impressive lateral movement and acceleration, someone like Spencer could really be helpful against him. A lot of the responsibility will also fall on Jarrett Allen, who is so often the last line of defense against someone like Kemba who can scoot his way past any defender in the league on his way to the rim.

There is also another All Star point guard playing in this game, and he happened to drop an electric 40 against the Hornets last Saturday. D’Angelo Russell continues to be an offensive force, putting up another solid performance against the Wizards. Like we saw last weekend, he’s going to need to be at his absolute best in order to outplay Kemba and Tony Parker, who also killed the Nets. DLo, because we all know I love to update you all on his stats, averaged 26 points, 8 assists, and shot 42/35/87 in February while carrying the team on his back in the absence of both Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert. You love to see it.

Treveon Graham is so enticing. Not because he could be so much better than he is or he has the potential to pop or anything like that, but because he has been so catastrophically bad on offense that once he’s replaced with someone who can hit shots at a better clip, the Nets are going to be elevated to a higher level of basketball. Who might that be? I have no idea. But for now Graham is the starter and he’s useful in certain defensive matchups and is kind of switchy, but the Nets need a real stretch four.

The Hornets happen to have a couple of guys who could fit the Graham spot, one being Nicolas Batum. Batum plays a lot of guard at this point for the Hornets but he’s 6’8 and is the kind of guy who just hits shots when he needs to. He’s done it against the Nets multiple times this season. He’s way overpaid, making over $25 million a season, but his on court value is high considering the Hornets need someone around Kemba who can play good wing defense and hit threes. Marvin Williams is the other player I could see fitting right into that Graham spot with ease. The guy just knows how to play. The Hornets are a little more versatile than they usually get credit for.

Player To Watch

Cody Zeller put up 13 and 11 against the Nets in that last matchup and was surprisingly annoying at times on the board and around the rim. He can set a solid screen and plays with a lot of energy. He isn’t the most skilled big man in the world, but what he lacks in touch he makes up for in hustle. This also leads him to foul a bunch, 4.6 per 36 minutes, which is a cool fun thing for the Nets to exploit, but if he stays out of foul trouble he can bully his way into having a decent game.

And how about Frank Kaminsky? The 6’11” stretch 4 wants out of Charlotte where he has been relegated to the end of the bench, but the Hornets seem intent on keeping him. If he isn’t waived by 11:59 pm Friday, he won’t be eligible for the playoffs and his value to a playoff team virtually disappears. Kaminsky flew on the Hornets team plane to New York on Thursday night.

Playoff Picture

Whoever wins will own the tiebreaker in the playoffs. That’s big.

The Nets currently hold the six seed, a game and a half ahead of the Pistons who are now in the seven seed. The Magic are in eighth, three games behind the Nets who also hold the tiebreaker over them. The Heat continue to lose and are now 10th, fourth games behind Brooklyn.

The Nets are about to begin their big March road trip, seven games in 10 days, with only one of their opponents on the trip having a losing record: the Los Angeles Lakers.

From The Vault

I’m really down a great YouTube rabbit hole this week. First it was Grizzlies/Spurs, which led me to Bulls/Celtics, which then ended up with me watching so many Ray Allen highlights. My favorite of all time. He would’ve been making like 300 threes a season if he played in todays NBA. I think people forget just how athletic he was at the beginning of his career right up until he joined the Celtics.

Enjoy.

For a different perspective, head on over to At the Hive, our Hornets sister site on SB Nation.