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Must win? Nets face off vs. Hornets in Charlotte

The Nets took a frustrating loss to the Trail Blazers on Thursday night, going down 113-99 in an effort where they just could not seem to get the offense clicking until it was too late. Maybe it was All-Star Weekend rust, maybe it was just a bad performance. Who’s to say? What needs to happen next is a rally for a matchup with the Hornets in Charlotte on Friday night. Charlotte is right behind Brooklyn as the Nets try to hold onto that six seed, and Kemba Walker and co. would love to snatch it from them. Let’s get into it.

Where To Follow The Game

YES and WFAN at 7pm, ET.

Injuries

Spencer Dinwiddie (thumb) is out. Dzanan Musa is on assignment with Long Island. Everyone else is healthy.

Bismack Biyombo (rest) and Tony Parker (back) both missed Charlottes game Thursday. Biyombo should return, we’ll see about Parker.

The Game

The Nets and Hornets provided one of the wildest games we’ve seen this entire NBA season so far back in December, and the Nets followed that big win with a loss in Charlotte just a few days later. The season series sits at 1-1 and we’ll see the Hornets twice more after Saturday night.

Obviously, in any game regarding Charlotte, their best and most recognizable player is probably going to be mentioned at least close to first. Kemba Walker has slowed down since his scorching start to the season but remains one of the league’s most dominant point guards as he tries to drag this Hornets roster into the playoffs. He’s averaging 24.9 points per game and while he isn’t James Harden, he’s doing an admirable job as a one-man offense. He takes 20 shots and over 9 three’s per game and shoots 43/36/83 while doing it. Not bad for such a high usage player with little other offensive help around.

Charlotte’s next-best scorer is Jeremy Lamb who is carving himself out a nice career after being a piece in the now infamous Harden Trade. He’s not quite as efficient from three as his reputation might lead you to expect, shooting just 33 percent this season on attempts from deep, but he can get to the rim and make some things happen on offense. He’s long, and can grab a board better than plenty of other two guards, and his size helps him out on the defensive end as well.

On Friday night, however, coach James Borrego replaced Lamb in the starting lineup with Miles Bridges and Charlotte beat Washington easily. Expect Bridges to continue in the starting role with Lamb an effective sixth man. Bridges finished with 14 points and six rebounds

Speaking of long, versatile, two guards who sometimes aren’t great from three point range, Caris LeVert is getting there! We’re still on feeling watch more than stats watch for Caris right now with the Blazers game being still just his fourth since returning from injury, but he had a couple of drives to the rim where he was able to finish with contact and looked confident and ready to go. That’s what we like to see just four games in. 12 points in 20 minutes with 4 free throw attempts? Solid. The shooting and defense and everything else will come along in time.

The following two things can both be true:

1. Jarrett Allen is a Good Defensive Center

2. Jarrett Allen Gets Bullied by Other Big, Mobile Centers like Jusuf Nurkic and Enes Kanter

Jarrett Allen is one of the smartest young big men on the defensive side of the ball in the entire league. He has a preternatural feel for where he needs to be, plays hard within Kenny Atkinson’s system, and famously has the length, vertical, and fearlessness to block a shot from anyone on the earth. (We have the receipts!)

His 2.3 fouls per 36 minutes is better than half the guys in the Nets rotation, and his ability to defend tough plays without fouling is something that’s pretty hard to teach. He just has it, and the refs respect him. He is also 20, skinny, and more of an up-and-down than a side-to-side defender at this point. That’s ok. It’s clear that Jarrett will need to bulk up a bit to become a real giant impact player, but he also might be the single most important Net.

Think about it. Let’s say for this upcoming game against Charlotte, Jarrett were to sit out. Ed Davis would presumably start at center and then who would his backup be? Rondae Hollis-Jefferson? Treveon Graham? Rodions Kurucs? It’s slim picking after Davis. We’ve seen what the Nets look like without LeVert, Dinwiddie, and D’Angelo Russell over the last year or so, but Allen? That dude stays on the court and it could be a disaster if he doesn’t. So might he occasionally get bullied by Enes Kanter or Andre Drummond? Yes. But he brings more to the table than he takes off.

Charlotte has a fairly well-rounded big man rotation, with Cody Zeller, Willy Hernangomez, Frank Kaminsky who reportedly wants a buyout, even Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Marvin Williams. No absolute studs or standouts, but a bunch of guys who can set screens and grab rebounds to outlet over to Kemba on the break. Brooklyn shouldn’t have too much trouble with this group.

Player To Watch

Malik Monk is a real hit-or-miss type player. He has six games this season scoring 20 or more points, and four games where he scored 0 points. 0 as in no points for the entire game. His 25.8 percent Usage Rate is second on the team only to Kemba, who has a 31.1 percent mark himself which is high. Monk is shooting 39/33/89 and reminds me sometimes of Tim Hardaway Jr. The Nets, especially with Caris back, do a pretty good job of shutting down perimeter oriented opponents, so hopefully we see Cold Monk rather than Hot Monk. Could go either way with this guy.

Playoff Watch

The Nets enter Saturday still in the six seed, but teams are closing in. The Hornets are coming off a 123-110 win Friday night over the Wizards. The Bulls beat the Magic and the Pistons beat the Hawks.

Brooklyn, with a 30-30 mark have a one-game advantage over Charlotte at 28-30 and a game and a half lead over the 27-30 Pistons. Miami, who didn’t play, are now two-and-a- half games behind at 26-31. Orlando, now 10th, has 33 losses to 27 wins,

From The Vault

A reminder for everyone. Enjoy.

For a different perspective, head on over to At the Hive, our Hornets sister site on SB Nation.

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