In preparation for Monday night's game at the Garden, I spoke with Mike Mazzeo, who covers the Nets for ESPN New York, to get a read on the team. Here are his responses to three burning questions I had:
Zwerling: Jeremy Lin torched the Nets in their last meeting -- his breakout game on Feb. 4. How do you think the Nets will defend him differently, and if so, will that really have any impact with the way Lin's been playing?
Mazzeo: Linsanity was born on Feb. 4 out of woeful pick-and-roll defense, and absolutely no rim protection by the Nets. On that night, whatever Lin wanted, he got. At the time, I figured he was just some bench warmer who had an incredible game against a bad team. Like so many others, I was wrong. The book on Lin is to force him left and pack the paint, so he can’t dribble-drive and either get to the bucket or kick. So with that in mind, I'm sure the Nets will try to trap him, double him and hopefully go over screens instead of under. The problem is, the Knicks have so many other weapons on the floor to contend with, especially if Carmelo Anthony returns. It's pretty much pick your poison. The Nets are a terrible defensive team, and I don't expect that to change Monday night.
Zwerling: What's the latest with Brook Lopez and how do you see his play or absence affecting the Nets?
Mazzeo: Lopez won't play tonight. Obviously, it would've been nice to see Lopez take on Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler. Brook was extremely rusty last night in a loss to the Bucks. He went 2-for-7 from the field and 5-for-11 from the free throw stripe. But the Nets are bringing him back slowly, and it makes sense since they've got a ton invested in Lopez. Lopez being out means more of Shelden Williams and Johan Petro, which isn't a good thing unless you're the Knicks. Chandler will likely have his way as the roll man, leading to several dunks, while Amare should thrive inside as well, assuming he doesn't get into foul trouble like he did the last time these two teams met. And the Nets will go back to being the same team that has ranked last in points in the paint all season. Lopez at say 40 percent would've been better than Shelden and Johan at 100 percent. But it is what it is.
Zwerling: What matchup are you most looking forward to seeing and why?
Mazzeo: Deron Williams vs. Jeremy Lin. D-Will vs. Linsanity, Part II, two of the premier point guards in the NBA squaring off. Lin has a lot more help than D-Will, but maybe D-Will will surprise us all and go off for like 40 points tonight. The Nets still probably won't win, but it would be neat to see a Nets point guard own the Knicks in the Garden the way Jason Kidd used to. Those were the days, eh Nets fans?
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