Wizards vs. Nets preview: Prepare for war

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Wizards host their Eastern Conference rivals the Brooklyn Nets in a key battle in the war for playoff positioning. Here's what you need to know.

Last night was a roller coaster ride of emotion for Wizards fans. Bradley Beal sprains his ankle? NOOOOOOO!!!!! The Wizards still manage to pull out the win in overtime? YESSSSSSSS!!!!!

Now they get to watch as Washington plays what could be one of their most important games of the season as they host the scorching hot Brooklyn Nets. These two teams are battling for playoff positioning in the East and it's entirely possible that they meet in the first round of the playoffs. Washington got the better of Brooklyn the first two times they played this season, but that was before the Nets used "one weird trick that opposing coaches hate!" and turned around their season.

Where and when? Tip off is at 7 p.m. at the Verizon Center.

Are they good? Presently, yes, they're one of the best teams in the NBA. Brooklyn got off to a horrible start this season and looked like they were on their way to the lottery when center Brook Lopez went out for the season with a broken foot. They made some adjustments, most notably going small in the frontcourt and big on the perimeter, and are 23-9 since the start of the new year. They're now 33-30 and are knotted up with Washington, two games between the fifth seeded Chicago Bulls.

Who's out? The Wizards are going to be missing Nene and, presumably, Bradley Beal. The Nets will be without Lopez and Kevin Garnett, while Andrei Kirilenko is listed as questionable for tonight's game.

What are they good at? Flummoxing opponents. Seriously, Brooklyn is unique in that they manage to play small and big at the same time. Typically they'll use Pierce at power forward next to either Garnett, Mason Plumlee or Andray Blatche at center, giving them a mobile big man rotation with a lot of shooting and passing ability. Their perimeter rotation tends to feature a mix of the 6'9 and super-lanky Kirilenko, 6'7 Shaun Livingston, 6'8 Joe Johnson along with Deron Williams, Alan Anderson and Marcus Thornton. All of these players with the exceptions of Thornton and Anderson are big for their positions, especially as the league gets smaller and smaller, and the Nets are able to create a ton of matchup problems on both ends of the court as a result.

What are they bad at? Rebounding, especially with Garnett out. One of the consequences of playing an undersized, aging frontcourt with a perimeter rotation that lacks any particularly noteworthy rebounders is that the Nets regularly get killed on the glass. Brooklyn is 25th in the NBA in offensive rebounding percentage and 26th in defensive rebounding percentage per Basketball-Reference, and recently set an NBA record by recording only 17 rebounds in their loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on January 31. For the sake of comparison Dennis Rodman averaged more rebounds per game over an entire season on three separate occasions.

Who's going to win? This should be a really good game and I hate to do this, but I think Brooklyn, even without Garnett, has the edge tonight. The Nets have been great lately and Washington is playing their second game in as many nights. If Washington's going to get the win, it will probably be as a result of a huge game (in huge minutes) from Martell Webster or Trevor Ariza as they attempt to make up for the absence of Beal.

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