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Brooklyn Nets vs. Washington Wizards preview: The Nets begin a 4 game road trip

The Nets close out 2023 on the road, starting with the Wizards in DC.

Washington Wizards v Phoenix Suns Photo by Kate Frese/NBAE via Getty Images

So, about that. After barely beating the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday, the Brooklyn Nets came home to face the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday. They decided to punt the game and have their reserves face Damian Lillard, Giannis Antetokuonmpo and friends at the ‘clays. The game was competitive for a while, but the Bucks were too much for the Nets reserves in the end. As you would expect, there was a lot of discourse about the game. We’ll get to that in a bit.

The opponent tonight is looking to get back in the win column as well. The Washington Wizards faced the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night and lost by 30 points at home. They are now 5-25 on the season.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN on radio. Tip after 7 PM.

Injuries

No Ben Simmons or Lonnie Walker IV. Everyone who sat on Wednesday (Nic Claxton, Dorian Finney Smith, Cam Johnson, and Spencer Dinwiddie) should be back. The five Long Island Nets players who combined for 61 points are all back at Nassau Coliseum: Jalen Wilson, Noah Clowney, Armoni Brooks, Keon Johnson and Dariq Whitehead.

Danilo Galinarri is questionable with lower back spasms.

The game

Brooklyn won the first and second meetings. The last meeting between the teams will be at the end of March.

We mentioned the Nets punting, and let’s just say it was not received well...

And that’s tame compared to some of the other comments I’ve been seeing! This isn’t a statement of whether what they did was right or wrong, but the thought of the Nets going extra hard to ensure they didn’t lose to the Pistons and placing the Bucks game as a lower priority is hilarious. There’s a logic to that, as Kyle Kuzma (kinda) hinted at

When you put it that way...

In the meantime, Kuzma will try to get his team on the right side of things. Kuz has been the team’s best player this season and leads DC in scoring and is second in assists and rebounds.

This is the third game in four nights for the Nets and the start of a four-game, New Year’s road trip. Since most everyone sat on Wednesday, everyone should have extra in reserve tonight. The difficulty will jump several notches after this as the team goes to Oklahoma City, New Orleans, and Houston (night two of a back-to-back, third game in four days). To say they need this one is an understatement.

We’ll have a shootout of sorts at the two guard position. Jordan Poole is still trying to find his way now that he has the keys to the offense. He’s shot over fifty percent from the field in two of his past five games, and you see what he can do when he has everything going well

The big question for him is can he be more consistent on a night-to-night basis? If he can, the Wizards might have something to work with in the future. If not, it’s going to make for some rough evenings in that fancy new arena they’re planning to build.

On the other side, Cam Thomas hasn’t gotten much run in recent days. He didn’t play the entire fourth quarter on Tuesday and only the first quarter on Wednesday night. By all accounts, it appears that the Nets are trying to figure out what lineup combination gives them the best chance of winning. My main man Lucas Kaplan wrote about that and more yesterday:

Imperfections aside, his talent is undeniable. Even a potential move to the bench shouldn’t be viewed as a demotion, but rather an opportunity to play in defensively-slanted lineups that help all involved. No matter what happens though, the key for Cam Thomas is to feel and react to what’s around him, not just in front of him.

Is this a feasible goal? I think so, at least to some extent. As Thomas continues to rep out various ball-handling and defensive situations, he should recognize patterns. Now that he knows how to break down the first defender and has started reading the second defender, who’s to say it’s impossible he’ll get to that third one?

When you start making a name for yourself, opponents key in on you more and try to exploit your weaknesses. More reps and more reps in high pressure situations can help your development. For Thomas, making the most of his minutes and adding to his game will be key to his growth and the coaches entrusting him with more and more.

The Nets should have a bunch of success on the boards tonight. The Wizards rank last in rebound rate and the Nets are in the top ten. With Nic Claxton and Day’ron Sharpe manning the middle, it allows the Nets to have great rim protection and beasts on the boards on the court all game long. Daniel Gafford has done his best to address the Wizards’ deficiencies on the glass, but he can only do so much on his own. He tends to get into foul trouble (seventh in the NBA in fouls), so there will be plenty of opportunities for the Nets to attack him early and often.

Player to watch: Deni Avdija

It takes time to find your footing. When you’re a young player coming in to a team that’s rebuilding and trying to find its place, the first few years will be rocky. And when you came in during the COVID-19 shortened season, it becomes even harder. However, Deni Avdjia has started to find his place. He’s improved each season he’s been in the league and is in career highs in points, field goal percentage, and assists.

The half day ought to help Mikal Bridges plenty. His games have fluctuated from solid to unacceptable recently, and the Nets him playing at his best if they want to climb the standings. When Bridges is getting downhill and getting to his spots, his game is much more fluid

Play within yourself, don’t rush anything, and don’t try to put too much on your shoulders. Do that, and good things will follow.

From the Vault

Happy birthday, Pimp C!

More reading: Bullets Forever, SB Nation NBA, Nets Republic, Wiz of Awes