Just a night after snapping their 5 game losing streak, the Brooklyn Nets (4-10) are back at home to face the Los Angeles Lakers (7-8), who are still without Kobe Bryant. The Lakers are coming off a close loss in Washington last night so both teams are playing the second halves of back-to-backs.
The Lakers have been a pleasant surprise this year, hovering around .500 despite not having their best player and leader in the lineup. This year’s roster was designed specifically for the Mike D’Antoni offense, with lots of 3-point shooters. The Lakers lead the NBA in 3-pointers made per game and our 4th in the league in percentage. They are also 6th in assists. However, their defense is another story. They have given up the 8th most points per game and their opponents are shooting a high percentage from the field.
Injuries: The Nets did not hold a shootaround this morning because this will be the second game of a back-to-back for them, so we haven’t heard anything about their four injured players yet. I will assume none will play. The Lakers will be without Steve Nash and Chris Kaman, in addition to Kobe Bryant.
Nets vs. Lakers tickets
Shaun Livingston vs. Steve Blake. Advantage: Livingston
This is a matchup of two career backup point guards. Both are veterans and rarely make bad decisions, but they are still very different players. Blake’s biggest offensive weapon is his 3-pointer, where he is shooting nearly 46% this year. Livingston rarely if ever takes 3′s and he has a big height advantage over Blake.
Joe Johnson vs. Jodie Meeks. Advantage: Johnson
Meeks is averaging a career high 13 ppg this year while filling in for Kobe Bryant. He also has a pretty deadly 3-ball, so Joe Johnson will need to be careful here. However, Meeks still does not play much defense and is an undersized shooting guard. Joe Johnson has been hot recently and I think he will have a very big game tonight.
Paul Pierce vs. Wesley Johnson. Advantage: Pierce
Wesley Johnson was the 4th pick in the 2010 draft and was pretty much a bust. The Lakers are his third NBA team and he still hasn’t really found a role anywhere. Pierce played pretty well last night in Toronto and he should be able to take advantage of Johnson’s lack of experience.
Kevin Garnett vs. Jordan Hill. Advantage: Hill
Jordan Hill has gotten more playing time than ever before this year and is averaging career highs in points and rebounds because of it. Although he will never be a star or a great defensive player in the NBA, he is proving to be much more than another Knicks draft bust. Remember, the Knicks traded away Hill to Houston midway through his rookie season for half a year of Tracy McGrady, a year where the team didn’t even make the playoffs. Garnett played a lot of minutes last night, but I don’t think Kidd has any choice other than to play him for the whole game tonight. The Nets need to build on yesterday’s momentum and the only way to do that will be by Garnett playing.
Andray Blatche vs. Pau Gasol. Advantage: Gasol
The Lakers need to be careful with Pau Gasol. He is playing a lot of minutes for a 33-year old who has had a lot of injury problems within the last year. He played 35 minutes last night in Washington. Still, Gasol is having a much better year than last year without Dwight Howard clogging up the paint. He is a very crafty offensive player, which will likely make Andray Blatche look silly on a few plays tonight. Blatche is coming off his best game of the season last night where he looked like a smart NBA player.
Bold prediction: Joe Johnson will score 30 points. The Lakers don’t have anybody in their backcourt who can stop him.
Score prediction: Nets 106, Lakers 99. I am being cautiously optimistic that the Nets somehow turned a corner last night and will start playing better now. Also, the Lakers just aren’t a very good team this year, especially without Kobe.