Wizards-Nets Preview


It wasn't too surprising that the New Jersey Nets struggled on offense without Deron Williams in their last game.

The Nets hope Williams will be available Friday night when they try to notch consecutive home wins for the first time as they meet the Washington Wizards.

Williams was a late scratch because of the stomach flu for Wednesday's 101-88 loss at Portland. He leads the Nets (19-37) with 21.6 points per game and 8.6 assists per contest.

"Unfortunately Deron comes down with that food poisoning or a stomach virus," coach Avery Johnson said. "And if Deron Williams can't play, something is really wrong."

Without him, New Jersey shot 37.2 percent and had 17 assists for its lowest total in the last seven games. Johnson admitted it wasn't ideal using rookie MarShon Brooks and even forward Gerald Wallace at point guard at times.

"We tried a lot of different combinations," Johnson said. "We used Wallace there, we used MarShon Brooks there and they got us into some sort of offense and we tried to keep it really simple."

Washington (12-43) has lost nine of 10 since one of its most impressive performances of the season, a 108-89 win at New Jersey on March 21. That marked the Wizards debut for Nene, who had 22 points and 10 rebounds while Jordan Crawford had a team-high 23 points.

It's unlikely that Nene will play Friday after sitting out the last four games with a left foot injury. The Wizards have dropped all of those games without the Brazilian center, falling 99-94 at Detroit on Thursday.

Washington is also missing forward Trevor Booker with a foot injury. Center Kevin Seraphin had 15 points and nine boards before fouling out Thursday.

"We were down two big men as it was, so Kevin was our only legitimate center, and then we lose him," coach Randy Wittman said. "We lost our physicality on defense, and we lost any ability to get points out of the post."

John Wall notched his 12th double-double with 28 points and 10 assists.

"Both our veterans weren't here, and we had some lapses," Wall said. "We didn't play with enough energy in the first half, but we kept the game reasonable and we fought back. Being short-handed isn't an excuse. Everyone has injuries."

Washington could have its hands full with Kris Humphries, who is averaging 17.0 points and 16.0 rebounds in two meetings this season. He scored 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting in New Jersey's 90-84 road win Dec. 26.

Humphries has averaged 17.7 points and 12.7 boards while posting three straight double-doubles overall.

The Nets' frontcourt could be boosted by starting center Shelden Williams, expected to return after missing the last four games with a right eye injury.

The short-handed Wizards will also be dealing with a Nets bench that has shown some punch, with reserves Gerald Green and Anthony Morrow each scoring 20 points Wednesday.

"Green and Morrow, we're going to have to give them some sort of special name," Johnson said. "They were really playing well for us off the bench."

New Jersey is just 7-19 at home this season, but it beat Indiana 100-84 in its last home game March 28.

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