Czar’s Season Preview


Gameday Dish: Nets vs. Hawks

The Atlanta Hawks and New Jersey Nets faced off three times in the first ten games of this crunched NBA season: twice in Jersey and once in the ATL. The Hawks won all three contests and look to sweep the series at home tonight. The good news for the guys from the Garden State is that their margin of defeat went from 36 to 7 to 5. If the Nets continue to gain ground on the Hawks they just might get a long overdue W.

The Hawks last played on Wednesday, when they bested the young Cleveland Cavaliers and soon-to-be Rookie of the Year PG Kyrie Irving in OT, 103-102. 8th-year forward Josh Smith led the team with 32 points and 17 boards. But 11th-year SG Joe Johnson saved the day with a 3-bomb at the end of regulation and the winning basket in the bonus round.

The Nets lost to the Wizards on Wednesday at home, 108-89. The game marked the 10th straight outing without starting center Brook Lopez, who will be sidelined again tonight (and perhaps for the remainder of the season) with a sprained right ankle. PG Deron Williams and head coach Avery Johnson were both ejected in the third quarter for arguing a non-call on a Williams drive to the hoop.

The emotional third quarter was the culmination of a frustrating season fraught with injuries and hard-to-swallow losses. New Jersey needs a win badly. But they haven’t fared anywhere near well at Philips Arena of late. In fact, they’ve dropped six in a row in the Peach State by an average of 17.2 points.

On the plus side, in their three losses to the Hawks this tilt NJ didn’t have Mr. Hustle, Gerald Wallace. The 11th-year SF will suit up for the Nets for the fourth time since being acquired from Portland before the trade deadline last week. The one-time NBA steals leader has averaged 17 ppg and 6 rpg for NJ. In their recent loss at Cleveland, the athletic swingman had an impressive 27 and 12 run in 40 minutes of court time.

The Nets have dropped six of their last seven contests and sit 8.5 games behind the current eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, their Hudson River rivals, the NY Knicks. With only 18 games remaining in the regular 66, hope against hope, the Nets still have a small statistical shot at the postseason.

Realistically, they’ll be on the outside looking in come playoff time. But finishing the year with effort, enthusiasm and heart will go a long way with their fan base and serve as a classy adieu before they pull up stakes and head to Brooklyn next year.

Tune in to YES tonight at 7:30 PM ET to see if the Nets can right their ship against the Hawks in Hotlanta.

On The Road with Mike: Miami Heat vs. New Jersey Nets

King James, D-Wade and Bosh paid a visit to the Garden State on Sunday for the Heat’s final season matchup against D-Will and the Nets.

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Thanks to Theresa Ganchorre for sharing her photos.

From the Booth

Mike and Ian discuss the Nets’ meltdown in the fourth quarter that resulted in a 98-92 road loss to the Wizards.

Gameday Dish: Bulls vs. Nets

The Chicago Bulls, 48-18, come to the Garden State tonight on a seven-game winning streak, tied with the Boston Celtics for tops in the Eastern Conference with sixteen regular season games remaining. They are 9-1 in their last 10 and the second stingiest team in the NBA in points allowed at 91.1 per game.

On this first official day of 2011 March Madness, coach Tom Thibadeau has two former NCAA Champions on his impressive roster: first-year Bull, ninth-year NBA vet PF Carlos Boozer (Duke-2001 National Champs) and fourth-year rubber band-man, rebounding stud Joakim Noah (U. of Florida-2006, 2007 National Champs).

However, both Bulls’ big men missed Chicago’s win at home over the Washington Wizards on Tuesday. Noah was out with the flu and Boozer missed his third straight game with a sprained left ankle. So far it seems that the former Gator will be in the lineup tonight, while the one-time Dukie will miss his fourth straight game.

The New Jersey Nets, 22-43, enter tonight’s inter-conference matchup on a five game W-streak, their longest victorious run in approximately five years. Coach Avery Johnson’s squad is a solid 18-16 at home this season. They bested the Boston Celtics on Monday night 88-79. Newly acquired, All-Star PG Deron Williams led the Nets with 16 points, 9 dimes, 6 boards and 3 swipes. Third-year C Brook Lopez added 20 points against the C’s. The Nets are undefeated in March and a big factor has been the 7-footer out of Stanford. During this winning stretch Lopez has averaged 25.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg and 3.6 blocks.

The Nets have 17 games left in their 2010-2011 campaign. They currently sit 5.5 games behind the Indiana Pacers for the last playoff spot in the East. The Bulls have lost 16 times in their last 17 visits to New Jersey and are 18-14 on the road compared to 30-4 at the United Center.

This evening’s contest is an important one for both sides. Each team wants to keep its respective winning streak rolling. With only a fifth of the regular season remaining, the Bulls need to stay hot and focused in order to compete with the Celtics for that top East seed. And if the Nets are to have any shot at the 2011 postseason, they’ll need to grab as many big W’s as they can from here on out.

In an equally compelling storyline, the results of the tie vote are in. Tune in to the Yes Network at 7:00 PM ET to find out which of my lucky green ties best captures the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day. Hope my partner Ryan Ruocco doesn’t show up wearing the same one.