The New Jersey Nets come to the Big Easy after back-to-back wins and will try to make it three in a row for the first time in almost two years. The Hornets return home after a loss at Detroit on Sunday in OT and a heartbreaking defeat at the buzzer in Indiana. Both squads are 3-7 over their last ten contests, but the Newark boys seem to be on the upswing while the Hornets have lost some of their buzz after starting the season 11-1.
The Nets ended a 10-game road losing streak to the Memphis Grizzlies last night by a score of 101-94. Center Brook Lopez led the team with a strong 26-point effort. Newcomer Sasha Vujacic came off the bench for 16 points, and seventh-year forward Kris Humphries pulled down 15 boards, including 4 on the offensive end. Coach Avery Johnson’s guys will have their work cut out for them trying to put points on the board against this stingy New Orleans team. The Hornets currently rank third in the NBA in points allowed at 92, while New Jersey is at the bottom of the league in scoring – 28th overall with 93 ppg.
We’ll get to see two of the NBA’s top point guards Chris Paul and Devin Harris go at it tonight. Former First Team All-NBA player (2008) and 3x All-Star Chris Paul leads the NBA in steals and is fourth in dimes per game. And All-Star Devin Harris has recently hit his stride, averaging 19.5 ppg and 7 apg over New Jersey’s last four games. Lopez will have his hands full with Hornets’ Emeka Okafor, a seventh-year center from UConn who had arguably his best game of this season in the loss to Indiana with a season high 15 rebounds. He also scored 19 points, had 3 blocks and 2 steals.
This should be a special night for New Orleans native Avery Johnson, who has remained connected to his hometown and will no doubt be greeted by many family and friends at the Arena. When New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton was hired back in ’06, he enlisted the local inspiration (who was coaching the Mavericks at that time) to serve as a motivational speaker for the team in its first training camp. Avery continued to be an ardent supporter and made subsequent pregame appearances including the Saints’ first home game in the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina and the 2010 Super Bowl. The Saints went on to become Super Bowl XLIV champs and Payton rewarded Johnson for his role in the team’s success with his very own Super Bowl ring.
Avery Johnson is hoping for a similar rise-to-success story for his Nets. Last night’s victory in Memphis, the home of the Blues, coupled with a win tonight against the Hornets in Crescent City, the birthplace of Jazz, would be sweet, sweet music to Nets Nation. Ian Eagle and I have the call at 8:00 PM ET on YES.