Deron Williams travels to Salt Lake City on Saturday as the Brooklyn Nets continue their road trip travelling to face the Utah Jazz. Williams returns to the franchise that drafted him for the second time and can expect his return to be unwelcome.
Brooklyn are playing the seventh game on an eight-game road trip. They are 4-2 on the road trip so far but suffered a huge loss to the Denver Nuggets last night. They were out of the game before halftime and the final scoreline was 109-87.
Still, there are generally plenty of reasons to be positive for Nets’ fans. They’ve locked up their first playoff spot for six seasons, are currently in fourth place in the Eastern conference and are still in the running to win the Atlantic division. This has been a difficult team to figure out throughout the season. They have shown that they are very capable of beating the best and have been an exceptional road team, particularly defensively, all season long.
Williams is a pretty big part of that success though. He didn’t perform so well in the match-up earlier this season scoring just 14 points. He can expect to have the Salt Lake City crowd on his back tonight and he struggled last time he returned to Utah. He scored 19 points last night, but has generally not shot the ball quite as well of late after a strong run through March.
The other key factor for the Nets is Brooks Lopez. The talented big man has averaged just 11 points per game in Utah, which is his lowest average on the road against a Western conference opponent. Lopez is a highly-skilled player, but he relies on support from Brooklyn’s guards and has had trouble establishing himself against Utah.
A big part of Lopez’s struggles might be the powerful and skilled front court of the Jazz. Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are big and physical on the inside, will bring down rebounds and have depth to their scoring games. Lopez will have his hands full as the Jazz work the ball on the inside.
Utah have fought their way into the eighth spot in the Western conference after dropping behind the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets. They have an identical record with the Lakers, but currently own the tiebreaker. They’ve secured three straight wins including decent victories over Philadelphia, Phoenix and Portland, all of whom have been playing pretty well of late.
It will be interesting to see how Mo Williams follows up his 28-point performance against Portland. The 30-year old guard surprised a lot of people with his scoring in that game. Will his hot form carry over well enough to boost Utah’s playoff chances?
Betting Preview: Utah (-4.5) vs. Brooklyn
This is a tough one to pick because the spread is very very good. Intuitively, this is a match-up that the Nets should be able to keep tight and possibly even win. However, this isn’t an ordinary road game or Brooklyn. Williams hasn’t performed against his former team and there’s no reason to expect him to catch fire in this game. Stylistically Lopez struggles for some reason. Add in the fact that the Nets have started to look tired on this road trip and that they played last night.
Utah needs a big win and they will get it here.
The Pick: Jazz (-4.5) [5dimes.eu]
Writer Record Against the Spread: 8-3