The Los Angeles Lakers fell 109-98 to the Brooklyn Nets in the would-be battle of the league’s giants upended by injuries and NBA health and safety protocols.
The teams confirmed Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant would miss out due to injuries in the lead-up to the game. But around an hour before tipoff, L.A. suffered an unexpected blow as Dennis Schroder was ruled out for the night due to protocols.
The Durant-less Nets outplayed L.A., holding a 25-point lead early in the fourth quarter. LeBron James’ 32 points weren’t enough to give the defending NBA champions a fighting chance as five Nets players ended up scoring in double-digits, James Harden leading the efforts with 23 points and 11 assists.
After the game, Kyrie Irving said the Nets wished they could have sized up the Lakers at their full strength, according to The Athletic’s Alex Schiffer:
Kyrie Irving: "We'll see them down the line." Said he and the whole Nets wanted a fully healthy Lakers team to face.
— Alex Schiffer (@Alex__Schiffer) February 19, 2021
Irving’s words suggest the Nets are readying themselves for a postseason showdown with the Lakers in the NBA Finals. The feeling appears to be mutual as Davis recently said Brooklyn “definitely” is a threat in this year’s NBA title race.
However, the Lakers remain focused on unleashing the potential of their own team rather than the strength of their opponents. Montrezl Harrell said L.A. didn’t put “extra emphasis” on the Nets game ahead of the clash.
Durant and James voted All-Star Game captains
The Lakers and Nets rivalry keeps generating additional subplots this season, the James-Irving feud or the Harden trade occurring straight after the Houston Rockets’ back-to-back losses to L.A. to name a couple.
And the rivalry will carry over to the All-Star Game in Atlanta. Durant and James have been voted captains of the two teams in the Eastern and Western Conference respectively.
James led the fan voting with 5.9 million; Durant came in second with 5.6 million votes.
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