The New Jersey Nets will attempt to put the brakes on a two-game losing streak when they take on the Atlanta Hawks Friday night at Philips Arena. They'll also attempt to find some sort of rhythm on offense, something that has been absent in each of the first three games of the season.
Entering action on Friday, Avery Johnson's team is last in the league in scoring (79.3 ppg) and second-to-last in scoring differential (-15.3). Not exactly the way they wanted to kick off their final season in Jersey, one in which they are trying to convince PG Deron Williams to stay on board for the move to Brooklyn next season.
Last time out on Thursday night, the Nets were pushed around by Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic, 94-78. For the third-straight game, New Jersey fell behind big early and though they made a push before halftime, they could never climb all the way back and were left wondering what else they can try.
Johnson already switched around the starting lineup, swapping Sundiata Gaines and Mehmet Okur in for Anthony Morrow and Johan Petro, to try and jump start the offense. The bigger issue right now is Williams, a player expected to be ahead of the curve after playing professionally in Turkey during the lockout. Instead, the point guard is averaging just 14.3 point and 5.7 assists while shooting 29 percent from the floor.
The one bright spot for the Nets continues to be the play of rookie MarShon Brooks. Against the Magic the first-round pick poured in a team-high 17 points and should find his name in the starting lineup before long. Having attended high school in Georgia, Brooks will be playing in front of friends and family Friday night.
New Jersey will need another solid effort from the youngster if they are going to avenge the 106-70 shellacking the Hawks handed out on Tuesday night at the Prudential Center in Newark, the largest margin of defeat in franchise history in a home-opener. Brooks scored 17 in that game as well, showing Johnson and the coaching staff the ability that made GM Billy King trade up in June's draft to snag him.
The Hawks followed up their win over the Nets with a blowout of the Washington Wizards, 101-83. After two games, they are fourth in the league in scoring (103.5) and will present a tough challenge for a New Jersey team trying to not only learn their offense but deal with playing six games in eight days.
The Nets have lost seven of the last night against the Hawks, including five straight in Atlanta. Opening tip is scheduled for 7:30 and you can see the game locally on YES.
This three-game road trip will come to an end Sunday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.