The Lakers are looking for their third consecutive win and their fifth win in six games as they face the Brooklyn Nets tonight in downtown Los Angeles. While the Lakers flourished under interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff, where they went 3-1, the team and Lakers Nation are set to begin the Mike D’Antoni Era in Los Angeles. After one of the most entertaining games on Sunday night against the Houston Rockets, the Lakers proved that for an “old team”, they can still run an up-tempo, offensively charged, successful game.
The Nets have gotten off to a very solid start and are currently on a five game winning streak. The Brooklyn Nets will get an up-close glimpse of what could have been as they will witness first hand the strengths, abilities and skills that Dwight Howard brings to the team. The Lakers have an all-time record of 56-19 against the Nets with a 30-8 home record against Brooklyn. The Lakers currently have an eight game winning streak against the Nets.
Frontcourt: Brook Lopez has the highest PER of Brooklyn’s starting lineup (24.83), which tells you that the Nets’ offense runs through the 24-year-old center a lot. Lopez is putting up 17.8 points per game, but Dwight Howard should have no problem boxing Lopez out on the boards. Lopez grabs 6.4 rebounds per game, while Howard is averaging 11.4 per game.
Meanwhile, Kris Humphries is the best rebounder on the Nets, averaging 9.8 per game. He is receiving almost 10 minutes less per game this season than last with 25.4. His points per game is down from last season (13.8 to 8.5), but he is scoring with less attempts per game (6.5).
A big reason for Humphries’ decrease in minutes have been due to Andray Blatche’s consistent production. Blatche is posting 9.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in 17.4 minutes per game, while shooting 46.2 percent from the field. On Sunday night, Blatche led the Nets with 22 points on 11-12 shooting in a win against Sacramento.
Gerald Wallace has only played two games this season due to an sprained ankle. On Sunday against Sacramento, Wallace posted just four points in 25 minutes, which is uncharacteristic of him. Wallace is averaging 7.0 points and 6.3 boards per game on five and a half shots per game (54.5 percent field goal shooting).
Backcourt: The Nets may have moved to Brooklyn this season, but their backcourt is still controlled by Deron Williams. It is no surprise that Williams is leading the team in points (18.0) and assists (8.0) per game. Steve Blake will be a game-time decision for the Lakers, so either him or Darius Morris, who has been stepping up on defense lately, will have a big assignment against Williams.
The Nets did make a nice move this off-season to improve their backcourt by acquiring veteran Joe Johnson. Johnson is averaging 15.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. However, Johnson has been struggling with his shot so far this season, shooting 36.0 percent from the field.
Reserves MarShon Brooks and C.J. Watson are posting solid numbers off the bench for Brooklyn this season. Brooks is averaging 9.4 points in just 15.4 points per game on 66.7 percent shooting. Brooks actually has the highest PER on the team with 24.9. C.J. Watson is averaging 8.5 points and 2.0 assists per game in 24.0 minutes while shooting 43.1 percent from the field.
Keys to Victory:
Score Over 100, Keep Them Under 100: The Brooklyn Nets have held their opponents to under 100 points in four of their last five games. The Nets are ranked sixth in the league in points allowed with 92.5. However, the Lakers are ranked seventh in the league for points scored per game with 100.5. In fact, the Lakers are averaging 116.5 points per game in the last two games as their offense has been more up-tempo and loose. In the last two games, the Lakers have combined to shoot 50.6 percent from the field.
While the Lakers’ offense has hit a new level within the last two games and will continue to do so under Mike D’Antoni’s system, defense cannot be put on the back burner as a result. There must be somewhat of a balance. It should be a goal for the Lakers to hold the Nets to under 100 points tonight, and no it’s not to guarantee the crowd free tacos. The Nets are 4-0 when scoring over 100 points. Overall, the Nets average 97.5 points per game (ranked 16th in NBA), while the Lakers are allowing their opponents to score 95.5 points per game (ranked 13th in NBA).
Ensuring their defense is present will be crucial for the Lakers in the present and in the future. The good news is the Lakers’ defense seems to start and end with energy and effort, and these have been displayed consistently in the last couple of games. Controlling the boards will continue to be important for the Lakers, who ranked third in the league with 46.8 per game. The Nets average 41.5 boards per night which is ranked 17th in the league.
Keep Turnovers Under 12: This will be short and sweet. A big reason for the Lakers’ surge in the past five games have been the decrease of turnovers per game. For the first five games of the season, it was becoming a normalcy for the Lakers to hover around the 20 mark for turnovers, which led to a crazy amount of fast break points by their opponents.
The last two games especially, the Lakers have done a much better job at controlling the ball, which naturally leads to less unnecessary points given to their opponents. In fact, the Lakers limited their turnovers to 13 on Friday against Phoenix and 12 on Sunday against Houston. Controlling the ball also helps the Lakers to dictate the pace of the game they want to play with.
Brooklyn Net (6-2) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (5-5)
7:30 PM PST, November 20, 2012
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
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: Kris Humphries
C: Brook Lopez
Key Reserves: G MarShon Brooks, G C.J. Watson, F Andray Blatche