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Nets look to bounce back vs. Wizards

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New York Knicks v Washington Wizards Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Woo boy. The Brooklyn Nets came into the “bubble” restart on Friday afternoon hoping to develop some good habits and boost their chances of getting into the playoffs. Unfortunately for Nets fans, neither of those things happened as the team got smoked out by the Orlando Magic in a blowout loss. Fortunately, there are seven more games for Jacque Vaughn’s guys to get it right.

The opponent today will be the Washington Wizards. It’s been a down year for the Wiz, and are on the outside looking in of the playoff standings. Their bubble stay didn’t get off to a good start as they lost to the Phoenix Suns on Friday.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. The party gets started at 2 PM.

Injuries

Jamal Crawford will NOT be making his Nets debut. He is out, with “conditioning” the issue. Everyone else is healthy.

Bradley Beal, Davis Bertans and John Wall didn’t make the trip into the bubble so we won’t see them. Garrison Matthews isn’t with the team for personal reasons.

The game

The Nets are six games ahead of the Wizards for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race. That’s important because if that lead shrinks by a considerable amount, the Nets’ stay in Orlando will become exponentially more difficult. This handy explanation from the league has more:

If the team with the eighth-best record in its conference is more than four games ahead of the team with the ninth-best record in the same conference, no play-in tournament will be necessary. The final playoff berth will simply go to the team with the eighth best record (regular-season games + seeding games).

But if the team with the eighth-best record in its conference is four games or fewer ahead of the team with the ninth-best record in the same conference, then we’ll have a battle for the final spot between those two teams.

The tournament will basically be a best-of-two series — where the No. 9 seed will have to win two head-to-head matchups to take over the No. 8 spot.

I know it’s only game two in the bubble, but I feel it’s safe to call this a must win for the Wizards, right?

Rui Hachimura has been having a quality rookie season and has a good chance of being named to the All-Rookie team. Washington will have to figure out what to do with their roster this offseason, and having a player like Hachimura as a key part of their future will be of the utmost importance.

Caris Levert is a good candidate to bounce back for the Nets. He didn’t do much after the first quarter as the Magic defense was locked in on making his life difficult. The Wiz were the worst defense in the association prior to the shut down and Caris should look to attack every chance he gets.

Player to watch: Thomas Bryant

In addition to Hachimura, Bryant is another good young player the Wiz hope will be a part of their better future. He signed a three year extension last summer and has put together another good season. He’s taken on some more responsibility on offense and is a credible three point shooter.

Jarrett Allen will have to do more. Like every other Net, nothing was doing for him after the first quarter. Ajayi Browne has more:

Allen will have to find it within himself again to carry this load for Brooklyn. If the Nets have any hopes of going far this year, Allen has to show up. On Friday, afternoon, he started out on fire with 10 points in the first seven minutes of the first quarter. Then, as he did in the past, he wasn’t as aggressive as he should have been. Of course, with the Nets so short-handed, the Magic quickly countered the Nets pick-and-roll, keying on Allen and LeVert.

For the future, if Allen can bulk up, add a little consistent jump shot to his arsenal and overall just play more aggressively on defense, there is no doubt in fans or teammates’ mind that he will become top five center in the league one day. Ed Davis said as much last season when asked about mentoring Allen.

Even if the Nets manage to get obliterated in the playoffs, this will be a good opportunity for Allen to build some momentum and boost his stock for next season. Who knows, maybe he’ll be the starter again when the full squad returns in 2021?

From the Vault

Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx turned 25 yesterday, so let’s put on my favorite track on that classic album:

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