Charlotte Hornets Host Brooklyn Nets


Brooklyn Nets At Charlotte Hornets

Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, North Carolina

7:00 PM ET

The Charlotte Hornets come home after a tough but ultimately disappointing road trip. A trip where they lost four of five games, with the only victory coming over a miserable Minnesota Timberwolves squad.

Worse still, starting center Al Jefferson injured his knee in the Hornets most recent loss, a 98-86 defeat to the Chicago Bulls, and is questionable to play tonight.

Without Jefferson, the Hornets are 7-3, but with big man Cody Zeller also questionable for tonight’s game, Charlotte could be very shorthanded in the paint yet again. After the miserable game Jason Maxiell played in Monday’s loss, that is not good news for the Hornets.

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According to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer, Al Jefferson will play against the Nets, but will be on a short leash regarding his injury. Cody Zeller will not play.

Charlotte Hornets’ head coach Steve Clifford made it clear that Jefferson was held out of the last game for precautionary reasons, but that Big Al wanted back on the court.

"“I just got concerned with him, that’s why I didn’t put him back in,” coach Steve Clifford said. “He was limping in the first half and he wanted to keep playing but we don’t need something where he’s out for an extended period of time.”"

Meanwhile, the Nets are still in the playoff hunt, but after losing to the Boston Celtics in a dispiriting loss, 110-91, things are looking grim in Brooklyn.

Deron Williams sounded disappointed in the loss:

"“We knew this was a big game, you guys knew this was a big game,” guard Deron Williams said. “It wasn’t just one game like it normally is when you lose to a team when you fall back one game in the standings. This was actually two because of the tiebreaker.”"

The Nets are still only a game and a half behind the Boston Celtics for the final playoff spot, but both the Charlotte Hornets and Indiana Pacers are ahead of them. Plus, as Williams explained, the loss to Boston means that the Nets now lose the tiebreaker.

Which brings up the point that with the season series between the Brooklyn Nets and Charlotte Hornets is currently tied 1-1, and the winner of this game would own any direct tiebreaker.

If the Nets lose, then they fall even farther back, and be essentially two games behind both Charlotte and Boston. Given the stakes, expect the Nets to be all-in tonight.

Of course, after the disaster of a road trip by the Hornets, you could say the same thing. Charlotte needs this win just as badly as the Nets, making tonight’s match-up a virtual playoff game.

In the previous two games, Joe Johnson has been the key. In a December 13th Nets win, Johnson scored 14 points in the first quarter, taking full advantage of his size over Gerald Henderson.

That dominance forced Charlotte to double team him, which led to the Nets shooting 16-23 from three point land. Charlotte seemed to have no answer and Brooklyn went on to win in a blowout.

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The March 4th game in Brooklyn was much different. Steve Clifford had the team prepared for Johnson’s post-up game, putting Marvin Williams into the starting lineup. Williams size hindered Johnson, as the Nets star scored just two points and Brooklyn shot only 3-16 from beyond the arc.

It will be interesting to see what kind of adjustment Nets head coach Lionel Hollins will make, and whether Clifford will put Marvin Williams back in the starting lineup.

Johnson will be the key, and the early results will set the tone in this one. If Johnson comes out and dominates early, then it will be a long night for Charlotte.

If the Nets cannot adjust to Marvin Williams guarding Johnson, then the Hornets will have the upper hand. Either way, it will be fascinating to see the chess match continue.