Tonight, the Nets will be in Los Angeles to face the Lakers in their only meeting of the season. The Nets are currently on a 3-game winning streak, their first of the year, and are playing their best basketball of the season. The Lakers, on the other hand, are really not. They have won 5 of their last 7 games, but they have not been impressive wins. In their last game, they gave up 112 points to the Warriors (who the Nets beat on Friday) and only won by 8 at home. The game before that, they only beat the Hornets by 3 at home. Also, all-star center Andrew Bynum sprained his ankle in the Lakers’ last game, but it is not serious and he should still play his normal minutes tonight.
With the relative hotness of the Nets and relative coldness of the Lakers, the Nets should have a chance to win this game. However, the Lakers are another one of those teams that the Nets just never beat. All time against the Lakers, the Nets are just 19-55 and just 8-29 in L.A. That’s awful. They have also lost 7 straight against the Lakers and haven’t won in Los Angeles in almost 5 years. Of course, the Lakers have been one of the best teams in the NBA over the last 5 years, but Kobe definitely has the Nets’ number.
The Lakers definitely have a lot to play for in this game and it would hurt them to lose at home to a bad team like the Nets. Even though they are currently third in the western conference, they are only 5 1/2 games ahead of Utah, who is in 9th. The western conference is much tighter than the east, and every game is important for every playoff contending team. If this game is close, look for Kobe to take a lot of shots (but not necessarily make a lot of them) down the stretch. The Lakers will definitely be giving their full effort in this game.
Like the Lakers, I think the Nets will put in a good effort, too. As I said before, they have been playing better as of late. But, even more importantly than that, the Nets have proven this year that the more hostile the crowd and the bigger the road game is, the better they play. They already have had impressive and puzzling road wins at New York, Dallas, Chicago, Philadelphia, and more. All these places have very hostile fans, and the Nets seem to play better in front of these fans than they do in front of Bobcats, Wizards, or even at home in front of Nets fans. The Staples Center in Los Angeles is one of the NBA’s best buildings and is home to some of the most passionate fans, who accept nothing less than championships.
Expect two players in particular to have big games: Deron Williams and Kris Humphries. Deron, more than any other player on the team, hates playing in the Prudential Center in front of 13,000 fans every night. He loves going on the road and quieting big crowds. One of his most impressive games of the season was at the Knicks, when he did this. Also, his 57 point game was on the road, as well as his last two games where he has dished out a total of 35 assists. In probably the most puzzling victory of the season for the Nets, they blew out the Bulls by 12 points on the road. In that game, The Hump had 24 points and 18 rebounds, one of the most impressive games of his career. Expect tons of boos for Kris in this pro-Hollywood crowd. And expect it to motivate him and we should see him have a good game.
Deron Williams vs. Ramon Sessions. Advantage: Williams
Sessions was traded to the Lakers from the Cavs at the trade deadline. Since coming to the Lakers, his numbers have been very good, including 23 points and 9 assists in his last game. However, Deron loves the big L.A. stage and I expect him to continue the assist numbers he has put up the last few games, along with scoring at least 20 points in this game. He should have a 20 points, 10 assist game here, and he should severely outplay Sessions.
Marshon Brooks vs. Kobe Bryant. Advantage: Take a wild guess
Marshon has continued to struggle as the year has progressed and isn’t showing any signs of turning it around. This Nets season has been very weird, though, so maybe Marshon will finally come out of his slump against Kobe, who is coming off of a 40 point game. If Marshon is guarding Kobe, we may see another 40 point game tonight. Expect Gerald Wallace to help out a LOT here. Kobe still might get 30.
Gerald Wallace vs. Metta World Peace. Advantage: Wallace
These two players are pretty similar. They both hustle a lot and will do anything it takes to help their team. Wallace has been a big part of the Nets’ turn around in recent games, and I hope he continues his good play here.
World Peace Artest has really struggled offensively this year, so don’t expect much from him, especially when he is being guarded by Gerald Wallace. Wallace is the X-factor for the Nets. If he has a 20 point, 15 rebound game again, the Nets will win. I can guarantee it.
Kris Humphries vs. Pau Gasol. Advantage:
There were a ton of trade rumors surrounding Gasol in the beginning of the year, but he is actually putting up excellent numbers: 17 ppg, 11 rpg. However, as I said earlier in this article, The Hump is going to get booed heavily and he always plays better when he is booed. I am expecting a very big game from him, maybe 20 point, 15 rebound as well. I actually think he will outplay Gasol. I’m changing my mind. Kris gets the advantage here.
Johan Petro vs. Andrew Bynum. Advantage: Take another guess
If Bynum is healthy, which he probably is, he will have an obvious huge advantage against Petro. However, Petro somehow outplayed DeMarcus Cousins on Saturday night, and Cousins may be even more talented than Bynum. But can Petro do it two games in a row? I really doubt it. Bynum might have a big game. If Bynum reinjures his ankle, though, the Lakers’ backup center is Troy Murphy. As a Nets fan, I absolutely hate Troy Murphy. I will first tell you how they acquired him. In 2009, the Nets traded Vince Carter to Orlando for Courtney Lee. Lee played one year with the Nets, and then was traded to Houston, and the Nets got back Murphy from Indiana in the trade. The previous year, Murphy averaged a double-double, and he seemed like a great option at backup pf/c. However, he had tons of stupid Mehmet-Okur-like injuries at the beginning of the season and only played a few games for the Nets before they cut him. So they basically traded Vince Carter, one of the best players in Nets history, for absolutely nothing. Now Murphy is on the Lakers, and I still hate him. Hopefully when he plays he will stay outside the 3-point line and take a bunch of Deshawn-front-rim 3′s. That would make me happy. He is so Mehmet Okur.
At this point in my previews, I would normally give a bold prediction for the game. However, tonight I will not be doing this. The reason for this is that I think my score prediction is bold enough. The Nets will win this game, 105-101 behind big games from Deron, Wallace, and The Hump. Kobe and Bynum will also pretty much be able to score at will, but they won’t be enough. The Nets like playing in big games, and this is definitely a big one.