Ranking the Top 5 Brooklyn Nets Games to Watch in March

Andrew KippContributor IIFebruary 28, 2013

Ranking the Top 5 Brooklyn Nets Games to Watch in March

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    The Brooklyn Nets (34-24) will play 11 of 15 games on the road in March, including clashes with the Chicago Bulls (32-25), Atlanta Hawks (33-23) and Los Angeles Clippers (41-18). The coming month features a plethora of important games for the franchise, some of which rank quite high on the must-watch scale.

    Players and coaches will tell you every game on the schedule is important, of course, but not all NBA matchups are created equal.

    The Nets are 14-12 away from the Barclays Center and 15-22 against above-.500 teams (at the time of game played). The month of March will offer plenty of opportunities for Brooklyn to prove it can win on the road against quality opponents.

    Let’s take a look at the top five Brooklyn Nets games to watch in March.

5. at Atlanta Hawks (Saturday, March 9, 7:00 p.m. EST)

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    The Nets play the Hawks twice in March, but the game in Atlanta will be the bigger test for Brooklyn.

    These teams met on back-to-back nights in January, and both protected their home court. The Hawks crushed the Nets, 109-95, in Atlanta on January 17, and the Nets returned the favor with a 94-89 win in Brooklyn on January 18.

    Many believed the Hawks would trade Josh Smith at the deadline and proceed to fall out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. But general manager Danny Ferry chose to keep his star power forward, and Atlanta is sitting in the fourth position.

    Oddly enough, as ESPN reported, Smith was suspended and didn’t play in the Hawks’ win on January 17. It was point guard Jeff Teague who killed the Nets in that game, scoring a game-high 28 points while dishing out 11 assists. Center Al Horford chipped in a double-double, recording 17 points and 13 rebounds.

    Deron Williams carried the Nets to victory over the Hawks the following night in Brooklyn. He scored a game-high 24 points and added seven assists.

    The Nets usually have an advantage in the backcourt when Williams and Joe Johnson are starting, and they will against the Hawks. The New York Post reported that Johnson should be healthy and playing by March 9, and Williams has been on fire since the All-Star break. In five games, he’s averaging 22.8 points and 8.4 assists on 45.1 percent shooting.

    The high-flying Josh Smith is enough reason to tune into this matchup between Eastern Conference playoff contenders. There should be plenty of offense, and it will be another opportunity for Joe Johnson to stick it to his former team.

    PREDICTION: Nets 105-100

4. at Denver Nuggets (Friday, March 29, 9:00 p.m. EST)

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    The Nets eight-game, 17-day road trip will make a pit stop in the Mile High City on Friday March 29.

    The schedule-makers weren’t kind to the Nets in the second half of the season. The game against the Denver Nuggets (36-22) will be the front end of the fifth back-to-back set the team will play in March.

    The Nets should be sufficiently exhausted by the time they reach Denver. They’ll face a Nuggets team, in high altitude, that’s ranked second in pace in the NBA.

    The Nets beat the Nuggets, 119-108, on February 13 in Brooklyn. Joe Johnson accounted for 26 points and nine assists in the victory.

    The Nets recorded a season-best 119 points against the Nuggets in Brooklyn, beating them at their own game. But under far different circumstances, things should play out differently in the second meeting. Either way, it will be very entertaining to watch.

    PREDICTION: Nuggets 122-115

3. vs. Dallas Mavericks (Friday, March 1, 8:00 p.m. EST)

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    The Dallas Mavericks (25-32) are a sub-.500 team, but they’re always dangerous with sharpshooter Dirk Nowitzki in the lineup.

    The Nets would be foolish to take them lightly.

    Friday night’s tilt offers coach P.J. Carlesimo’s squad a chance to build on the momentum from Tuesday night’s 101-97 road win over the New Orleans Hornets (20-39). It’s also an opportunity for the Nets to play well against a good team in front of their fans.

    The Nets are 10 games above .500, but they need to show more consistency. After two emotional wins over the Milwaukee Bucks (28-28) following the All-Star break, they lost back-to-back games to the Houston Rockets (31-28) and Memphis Grizzlies (38-18).

    The Nets and Mavericks have yet to face off this season, but Friday night’s game won’t be without headlines. As SB Nation reported, Dallas was Brooklyn’s main competition for Deron Williams in the offseason. Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban and Williams will be eager to have the last laugh.

    Nowitzki, a seven-footer who can shoot from anywhere on the floor, is a matchup nightmare. The German giant has the size of a center, plays like a small forward and is listed as a power forward. He’ll be a tough assignment on the perimeter for Reggie Evans, 6’8”, and Gerald Wallace, 6’ 7”.

    Brooklyn will have three days of rest before Friday’s game, a rarity in the 82-game NBA schedule. Williams, who finished with a season-high tying 33 points against the Hornets, should be fresh, and Joe Johnson expects to play, according to the New York Post.

    The Nets have only four home games in March, and this is the most important of the bunch.

    PREDICTION: Nets 96-86

2. at Chicago Bulls (Saturday, March 2, 8:00 p.m. EST)

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    The Nets will travel to the Windy City on Saturday to face the Bulls for the third time (out of four) this season between the Eastern Conference rivals.

    The teams split their first two meetings, which were decided by a combined five points. The Bulls edged the Nets, 83-82, in Chicago on December 15, and the Nets exacted revenge in a 93-89 victory in Brooklyn on February 1.

    This game has plenty of playoff implications. The Nets are currently ranked fifth in the East, while the Bulls are ranked sixth. But only 1.5 games separate the teams, and Chicago could have an opportunity to overtake Brooklyn, depending on what transpires over the next few days.

    The key to the game will be the Nets' ability to match the Bulls' frontcourt prowess. As Aggrey Sam of CSN Chicago writes, without star point guard Derrick Rose, Chicago has relied on Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng and Taj Gibson to dominate the opposition in the paint.

    Noah averages 11.7 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. He is one of the best defensive centers in the league and will present a tough matchup for Nets center Brook Lopez.

    He recorded a double-double in the game on December 15 and did not play due to a foot injury in the game on February 1. The Bulls will have Noah this Saturday, and he could be the difference in the game.

    Nets-Bulls isn’t a sexy matchup, but it’s important for Brooklyn because it’s on the road against a playoff-bound conference opponent. If you like tenacious defense and half-court, grind-it-out offense, be sure to tune in for this one.

    PREDICTION: Bulls 87 Nets 80

1. at Los Angeles Clippers (Saturday, March 23, 10:30 p.m. EST)

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    The Nets end the month of March with a seven-game road trip. The journey begins on Monday, March 18 in Detroit and ends on Wednesday, April 3rd in Cleveland. Their biggest test on the trip will come against the Los Angeles Clippers.

    The Clippers have won six of their last seven games and are as hot as any team not named the Miami Heat (41-14) at the moment. Led by All-Star MVP point guard Chris Paul, they will present a big challenge to the Nets.

    The Nets beat the Clippers, 86-76, on November 23 in Brooklyn, holding Los Angeles to 10 baskets in the second half. Brook Lopez scored a game-high 26 points in the win.

    A lot has changed since November.

    The Clippers have transformed into an offensive juggernaut. They average over 100 points per game and rank fourth in assists per game.

    The Nets defense will be tested. Lopez has developed into an aggressive shot-blocker. The seven-footer is averaging 2.2 blocks per game and had four in the win over the Hornets on Tuesday.

    But will it be enough to slow down Lob City?

    This game features a stark contrast in styles. The Clippers like to run the floor and push the tempo on offense. The Nets prefer a slow-paced half-court offense that relies on isolation plays. It will be fascinating to see if Brooklyn, which ranks fifth in points allowed (94.8), will be able to shut down Los Angeles one more time.

    PREDICTION: Clippers 120-104


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