In the fourth game of a five game road trip, the Los Angeles Lakers will attempt to dampen the Brooklyn Nets’ chances at a playoff bid. Despite being a full nine games under .500, the Nets are a mere half game out of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Byron Scott is continuing to fiddle with the Lakers starting lineups while he is evaluating the younger players on the roster. Look for Scott to continue trying out the two point guard look by playing Jeremy Lin and Jordan Clarkson together more frequently.
Frontcourt: Brook Lopez has been one of the hottest players in the league as of late and as usual, his season averages hardly tell the full story of what he can do when healthy. He has missed just ten games this season, but spent a handful of games playing himself back into shape or back into the rotation. Those struggles are far behind him now as he is putting up video game numbers over his last five, posting averages of 28.6 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks on absurd shooting splits of 62.1 percent from the field and 96.2 percent from the charity stripe. Lopez is one of the most gifted low post scorers in the league and will be a tough cover for whoever Byron Scott puts on him. He will change his share of shots on the defensive end, but falls short of having a defensive anchor type of presence on that end of the floor.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, shots at the rim will be hard to come by as the Nets start another true center in Mason Plumlee. Plumlee has had up and down success in his second year as a pro. He enjoyed a very strong January, but has had his role reduced as of late with Lopez being on such a tear. He has settled in at respectable per game averages of 9.4 points and 6.5 boards in a limited 22.3 minutes. Plumlee will probably have a smaller offensive role in today’s game with Lopez taking the lion’s share of the shots in the paint.
Throughout the season for the Nets, Joe Johnson has been a stabilizing presence. He has been playing at a very high level, especially for a thirteenth year wing player and has put together a nice all-around season both scoring and facilitating the offense. He remains a reliable long-range shooter at 36.1 percent, though that percentage is starting to look more and more pedestrian in today’s game. Johnson is still able to create good shots for himself so the Lakers will have to keep him in check today.
Backcourt: The high-flying Markel Brown gets the start at shooting guard, but should quickly be relieved by Jarrett Jack or Alan Anderson. Brown is a good defensive player that leaves a lot to be desired on the offensive end. He has struggled from the field in his rookie season shooting a dismal 36.8 percent, albeit on low volume. With the Lakers lacking a consistent perimeter threat, Brown’s defensive services will not really be needed and his minutes will likely remain on the low end.
Deron Williams leads the Nets’ attack at point guard. Williams’ fall as an elite point guard happened very abruptly and there is no question that he has lost a step. He is shooting an awful 38.3 percent from the field, but is still an explosive scorer that can get it going in any one game. Long-range shooting comes in streaks for him and the Lakers can’t let him get hot from behind the arc. Williams also continues to be the primary playmaker for his teammates and is averaging a team best 6.3 dimes a game on the season.
Keys to Victory:
Limit Brook Lopez: Lopez is in the middle of a blistering stretch averaging nearly 30 points a game on over 60 percent shooting. Frankly, the Lakers don’t really have the personnel to bother Lopez, but Byron Scott will need to keep fresh bodies in the game to limit him offensively or at least force him into a poor shooting night. The Lakers should also try to keep Lopez off the glass as that has historically been an area of weakness for him.
Let Lin Loose: In a start next to Jordan Clarkson in the last game, Jeremy Lin went off for 18 points and 5 assists. However, even while coming off the bench, Lin has been on a tear, posting averages of 21.3 points and 5.5 assist over his last four games. Lin is the only Laker that can get into the paint with any regularity and that will be a necessity against a Nets team with capable perimeter defenders. Clarkson has a game that is more adaptable to playing without the ball, so the Lakers should look to let Lin run the offense when the two lead guards share the floor.
Los Angeles Lakers (19-52) at Brooklyn Nets (31-40)
12:30 PM PST, March 29, 2015
Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
TV: TWC SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Nets Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Deron Williams
SG: Markel Brown
SF: Joe Johnson
PF: Mason Plumlee
C: Brook Lopez
Key Reserves: PG: Jarrett Jack, SG: Bojan Bogdanovic, SG: Alan Anderson
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Jeremy Lin
SG: Jordan Clarkson
SF: Wesley Johnson
PF: Ryan Kelly
C: Tarik Black
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