Coming off a roller coaster of a game in Detroit, the Lakers make their first visit to the new home of the Nets in Brooklyn. The Lakers are playing their fourth game of the seven game Grammy road trip, where they have gone 2-1 so far.
Dwight Howard will miss his third straight game, as he tries to recover from the re-aggravation to his shoulder injury that occurred late in the game in Phoenix last Wednesday. The Lakers came away victorious during their first matchup with the Nets at Staples in November, which marked the first game under the Mike D’Antoni era.
The Nets began the season hot, but soon after found themselves in a lull. After firing head coach Avery Johnson, Brooklyn has returned to great form, going 14-5 under PJ Carlesimo. The Nets have performed quite well in their new home of Barclays Center with a current record of 18-8. The Lakers have an all-time record of 57-19 against the Nets with a 26-11 road record against Brooklyn. The Lakers currently have a nine game winning streak against the Nets.
Frontcourt: 2013 All-Star Brook Lopez has the highest PER of Brooklyn’s starting lineup (25.4), which tells you that the Nets’ offense runs through the 24-year-old center often. Lopez, who is having his best season yet, is putting up a team leading 18.7 points and 2.17 blocks per games. However, Lopez doesn’t accumulate a center-like amount of rebounds, averaging 6.4 rebounds per game.
Despite remaining a threat on the glass, Kris Humphries is now coming off the bench and hasn’t received much playing time over the past week. Reggie Evans has taken Humphries’ spot in the starting rotation, where he is averaging just 3.3 points per game but leads the team in rebounding (8.8) in 22 minutes per game.
After getting some games in as a starter, Andray Blatche’s minutes and production have remained pretty consistent for a bench player. In Friday’s game against the Bulls, Blatche went scoreless through the first three quarters, then scored all of his 11 points in the fourth in a close victory. Blatche is posting 10.7 points and 5.6 rebounds in 19.9 minutes per game, while shooting 49.6 percent from the field.
Gerald Wallace has seen a number of injuries this season, which has had its impact on Wallace’s contribution. The eleven-year veteran is averaging 8.9 points and 5.2 boards per game on 43.1 percent field goal shooting. In their last matchup against the Lakers in November, Pau Gasol had a +20 for the game, in which he was primarily guarded by Wallace.
Backcourt: Deron Williams will play tonight despite injuring his ankle during the game against Chicago. Despite having an up and down year, especially with his shot, Williams is averaging 16.8 points and 7.7 assists per game. Williams posted 22 points and 10 assists against LA in November. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kobe Bryant switch to defend Williams to prevent his playmaking and scoring abilities.
The Nets did make a nice move this off-season to improve their backcourt by acquiring veteran Joe Johnson. Johnson is averaging 17.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. Trapping Johnson and forcing him to make a tough pass will be crucial, as we have seen him having a ton of success with iso-Joe plays this season.
Reserves MarShon Brooks and C.J. Watson have cooled off from the start of the season, but can’t be slept on defensively. Brooks is averaging 5.4 points in 11.6 minutes per game on 47.4 percent shooting. C.J. Watson is averaging 6.2 points in 18 minutes and has had his struggles with shot efficiency, shooting 39.8 percent from the field.
Keys to Victory:
Finish Strong: Over the past four games, the Lakers have made a habit of blowing leads late in the game. The Lakers have been fortunate to escape with wins in three of those four games, but cannot rely on a late resurgence against the top teams in the league, especially solid defensive teams like Brooklyn. The Lakers need to continue to move the ball throughout all 48 minutes in order to keep the offense fluid and the energy up. On defense, the Lakers must try to prevent runs by Brooklyn and close out quarters. The Lakers must limit the Nets’ production in the paint, as they failed to do in the second half of Sunday’s game against Detroit by giving up a game total of 64 points in the paint to the Pistons, which allowed them to get back in the game in the second half.
Work Inside Out: I think we all know by now that the Lakers are most effective when they work inside out on offense. Too often the Lakers rely too heavily on the three-point shot when they should throw it inside to see how the defense reacts. Often times, they will get a high-percentage opportunity in the low post or they draw in the defense so one or more players become open for easy looks around the perimeter. The Lakers won the points in the paint battle in their last matchup with Brooklyn, and should look to repeat that statistic. I expect to see a solid performance out of Pau Gasol, who has found his offensive rhythm in Dwight’s absence. That way perimeter players can move off the ball to find an open shot and remain active and involved.
Brooklyn Net (28-19) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (22-26)
4:30 PM PST, February 5, 2013
Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
TV: TWC Sports Network, NBATV
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) 1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Nets Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Deron Williams
SG: Joe Johnson
SF: Gerald Wallace
PF: Reggie Evans
C: Brook Lopez
Key Reserves: G MarShon Brooks, G C.J. Watson, F Andray Blatche