Charlotte Bobcats at Brooklyn Nets game preview

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Currently 7th and 8th in the East, the Nets host the Bobcats tonight in a game that could help solidify the Bobcats' playoff potential before the All-Star break.

The Nets are currently in 7th place in the East, and the Bobcats are currently in 8th. That makes tonight's game a matchup between two teams trying to hold onto their playoff spot. In other words: This could be considered a big game. It's been a few years since contending for a playoff spot was even a possibility for the Bobcats, and it's beginning to look like a playoff spot might even be considered fairly likely for this team.

One thing that might hurt their chances, though, is how tough the Bobcats schedule gets after the All-Star break. They'll start off next week with a home-and-away against the Pistons, currently ninth in the Eastern Conference standings, but will have several multi-game stretches against likely playoff teams, including many back-to-backs, and road trips to play some of the toughest teams in the West. In other words, if the Bobcats want to make a strong playoff push, this game, and the next two against Detroit, are going to be effective must-wins.

The other bit of bad news is Kemba Walker, who injured his Achilles in the second half of last night's game against the Mavericks. As I'm writing this post, it certainly seems likely that he'll play, but whether he'll be 100% might not be seen until gametime.

On the other side of the court, the Nets enter tonight's game having won three of their last four, including a 14-point win against the Spurs. They have not faced the Bobcats since November 20, a game which the Bobcats won in Charlotte behind 31 points from Kemba. Al Jefferson, who has been on what most people would call a "hot streak," did not play in that game, and I think he'll continue that level of play tonight against the Nets' big men, even if their frontcourt unit is headed by Kevin Garnett.

With Brook Lopez out for the season, the Nets mediocre offense is slightly better than a fairly poor defense (they rank 21st in defensive efficiency). They are led by perimeter scorers in Deron Williams (13.3 PPG, .405 3P%), Paul Pierce (13.2 PPG, .421 FG%), and ... *deep sigh* ... 2014 All-Star Joe Johnson, he of the 14.4 PER. Their biggest asset is their depth, as their bench features solid contributors in Andray Blatche, Mirza Teletovic, and rookie Mason Plumlee, who has been having a mostly-unheralded but strong start to his NBA career. If the Bobcats get into foul trouble, and Bismack Biyombo and Cody Zeller have a rough go at it in the defensive frontcourt, the Nets' bench unit could give the Bobcats fits, similar to their last matchup, when Blatche and Alan Anderson combined for 41 points.

The game tips off at 7:30.

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