Tonight, the Brooklyn Nets will put its five game win streak on the line at Los Angeles’ Staples Center; a showdown with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers is at hand.
Former New York Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni will make his debut for the Lakers, who have won four of its last five games and are looking to move past .500 for the first time this NBA season. In order to do so, though, they’ll have to beat the Nets.
Here is the pregame primer…
The Beginning of a Tough Stretch
Although the Nets enter Tuesday night’s game as one of the hottest teams in the NBA, the opponents haven’t necessarily been the most stellar of competition. Tonight begins a stretch of five games in seven nights and will be a very good test for the Nets. After the Lakers tonight, the Nets will play the Golden State Warriors in Oakland tomorrow before returning to Barclays and hosting the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday.
If the Nets wants to prove that they’re for real, a win tonight would send a message to the rest of the NBA, but more importantly, it would help the Nets build confidence going into a very tough stretch.
Two Matchups to Watch
NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal made headlines earlier this season when he said that he preferred Brook Lopez over Dwight Howard. Since then, O’Neal has doubled down on his comments and our own Jim Mancari believes that the Nets may be better off with Lopez over Howard. Tonight, the two will square off. If Lopez hits his midrange jumper early and forces Howard to guard him on the perimeter, the game will open up for the Nets to drive the ball into the paint. The Lakers probably have an advantage at the “5,” but if Lopez can mitigate it, the Nets will have a chance.
On the other hand, the Nets have a clear advantage at the point guard spot. Thus far this season, Deron Williams has done a good job of getting his teammates involved. He’s currently averaging eight assists per game, but more importantly, he’s taking only 13.8 shots per game. He’s been looking to facilitate more and that’s a good thing. However, with Steve Blake guarding him, Williams could help his team most by attacking and forcing the Lakers other defenders to help on him.
In Los Angeles, where the lights shine bright, it may be best for the Nets for Williams to actually go out and try to score 35 points. It may be difficult for the Nets to find points considering the other defensive matchups they’ll face.
Gerald Wallace’s Effectiveness
Gerald Wallace made his return to the lineup on Sunday night and played 24 minutes. His body responded well the following day and he hopes to regain his form. Aside from being a good perimeter defender, Wallace brings intangibles that the Nets need and can also provide them with interior scoring and an occasional three point shot. Last season, Wallace shot 38.5 percent from behind the arc and he’s one of the rare players on the Nets that delivers on both ends of the court.
His effectiveness, or lack thereof, will make a difference tonight, one way or another.
The Battle of the Second Units
The Lakers have a star studded starting lineup and although its bench has been playing better since Bernie Bickerstaff took over the helm, we have been of the opinion that the Nets have a very good second unit. In short, C.J. Watson, Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks and Andray Blatche will need to outplay the Lakers reserves and help the Nets make it six wins in a row.