Jan. 12, 2011; Phoenix, AZ, USA; New Jersey Nets center Brook Lopez (right) battles for position with Phoenix Suns forward Marcin Gortat at the US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Nets 118-109 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: Phoenix Suns(12-25) vs. Brooklyn Nets(20-15)

Once again the Phoenix Suns and their opponents are on opposite ends of the spectrum. The Suns are current losers of four straight games while the Brooklyn Nets are winners of four straight games.

The Suns are currently on the third game of their four game road trip and thus far no wins. Good news is, the Suns have won five straight games against the Nets when their home was in New Jersey but obviously this would be the first time the Suns plays the Nets in Brooklyn.

The Nets has been relatively mediocre at home this season owning an unimpressive 12-7 home record. The Suns on the other hand are losers of 11 straight road games, a mark which hasn’t been known in the valley since the Suns dropped 14 straight road games all the way in 1984.

“Like I said to the guys, no one’s going to dig us out of this, we’ve got to dig ourselves out of this,” coach Alvin Gentry said. “And no one feels sorry for you in the NBA.”

Going into tonight’s contest both teams are injury free. The Nets are the favorite in tonight’s match-up by a margin of 7.5 points according to ESPN.com. The Suns are still one win away from the franchise’s 2000th win which would make the Suns the 9th franchise in the NBA to reach that mark and how terrific it would be if the Suns reached that mark in my hometown of Brooklyn, New York.

Keys to the game: Suns

– Play 48 minutes! If you can use one word to describe the Suns this season, that word would be inconsistent. The Suns have managed to put together impressive play throughout stretches during games but that level of consistency seems to wavier from quarter to quarter. The Suns need to find a way to play a complete game and if they do, they might just get the Phoenix Suns franchise it’s 2000th win.

– Contain Brook Lopez! Lopez has absolutely thrived under Brooklyn’s new head coach P.J Carlesimo. In Lopez’s last 4 games he’s averaging 20.8 points on 59.3% shooting from the floor, 86.4% from the foul-line despite only playing 28 minutes per game in the last 4. Gortat will need to be at his best tonight defensively against the offensive force that is Brook Lopez.

– Turnovers. You know what? From now on I’m just  going to make turnovers a staple when it comes to keys to the game for the Suns. This team has to take care of the basketball for many reasons but there are two big ones, first being the fact that they’re simply not efficient enough offensively to make up for the lost possessions, and secondly they’re not athletic enough to run back in transition to defend.

Keys to the game: Nets

– Push the pace! The Nets are stuck in an contradiction, on one hand they would love to run with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace but their star center Brook Lopez is just simply not equipped to play that style of basketball; which is why he plays limited minutes. The Nets should look to push the ball and force the Suns to beat them offensively.

– Will the back-ups please stand up! The Nets has put together a formidable bench this off-season via free agency however it hasn’t resulted in production. In fact the Nets bench are ranked 22nd in the NBA in terms of points per game among all benches. The Nets need their bench to play well so that the starters aren’t forced to play 40 minutes each game.

The X-Factor 

– Confidence. This goes for both sides. Due to the Suns high number of defeats as of late, their confidence obviously aren’t soaring. The Nets are winning however they may become too confident since they’re playing a struggling team. If the Nets don’t bring it tonight they may very well find see an end to their four game win streak.

Match-up of the night!

– Giant vs. smaller giant. Brook Lopez vs. Marcin Gortat. Lopez is arguably the Nets best offensive player this season with Deron Williams struggling. Lopez after missing most of last season has come on with a career year this season in terms of per minute production. Lopez is ranked 5th in the NBA this season in PER(Player Efficiency Rating) and tied for 12th overall with Blake Griffin and Dwyane Wade in estimated wins added. Needless to say the Polish Hammer will have his fulls tonight.

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Tags: Brook Lopez Brooklyn Nets NBA Phoenix Suns

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