February 2, 2018, 4:32 pm
The Lakers (19-31) take on the Nets (19-33) on Friday night in what promises to be a game filled with emotion and subplots.
Brook Lopez returns to Brooklyn for the first time since being traded to Los Angeles, after playing the first nine seasons of his career for the Nets organization. Lopez is coming off a game in which he played only nine minutes and is averaging career-lows in points (11.6), minutes (20.6) and rebounds (3.8). It will be interesting to see if coach Luke Walton gives him a bit more run in this emotional return, especially after Lopez was visibly upset during the last game, covering his face with a towel and eventually leaving the bench for a period with red eyes.
For Lakers’ fans the focus will be on former Laker No. 2 overall draft pick D’Angelo Russell, who was the key piece in the trade that brought Lopez to the Lakers, along with unloading Timofey Mozgov’s anvil of a contract and a first round pick.
Russell has played well for Brooklyn but has been forced to miss significant time due to a knee injury he sustained earlier in the season. He is just now rounding into form and is coming off of an impressive game in which he tallied 22 points, five rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block in only 16-plus minutes. On the season he is averaging 16.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists — stats that are diminished significantly due to his rehab process.
The player meant to replace Russell on the Lakers, Lonzo Ball, has been dealing with a knee injury of his own. Los Angeles really misses his presence on the defensive end (third ranked point guard defensively in the NBA) where his ability to create steals and block shots is essential to the team. In addition, his ability to grab defensive rebounds and then push the ball, increasing team pace and creating easy shots for teammates has been sorely missed. It was announced recently that they expect to miss him for at least two more games due to the sprained MCL ligament in his knee.
The Laker players continue to play through turmoil with trade rumors abounding as the NBA reaches its upcoming trade deadline. Recently Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle have been the subjects of rumors that have them going to Cleveland and Dallas respectively. Both players continue to excel in the interim — they will try to maintain their focus and lead the Lakers to a win in a game that the Lakers badly need to right the ship after two consecutive bad losses.
- The Lakers average 8.4 steals per game (6th) vs. 6.0 steals per game for Brooklyn (30th).
- These are two of the best rebounding teams in the league as the Lakers average 46.2 rebounds per game (3rd) and the Nets average 45.5 rebounds per game (4th).
- Expect an extremely quick and high-scoring game as these are two of the league-leaders in rate of play with the Lakers leading the league at 103.21 possessions per 48 minutes and the Nets just behind them at 101.43 (6th).
- Los Angeles needs to press their advantage in scoring up close where they lead the league in points in the paint with 53.3 points in the paint per game vs. the Nets who average almost 10 points fewer with 43.4 points in the paint per game. However, the Lakers struggle to defend the paint themselves allowing 49.2 PIP (27th) compared to Brooklyn who allows a more reasonable 45.1 PIP (17th).
- For the Lakers it all comes down to their defensive effort. For the season they are 14th overall in defensive rating allowing 105.3 points per 100 possessions, however, in their victories they are significantly better allowing only 97.8 points per 100 possessions (4th). In their previous two losses, the Lakers have accumulated an absurd 118.6 defensive rating. The Nets are 21st in the league in defensive rating allowing 106.9 points per 100 possessions.
Projected Starting Rosters
Josh Hart (PG)
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (SG)
Brandon Ingram (SF)
Julius Randle (PF)
Brook Lopez (C)
Spencer Dinwiddie (PG)
Allen Crabbe (SG)
DeMarre Carroll (SF)
Quincy Acy (PF)
Jarrett Allen (C)
Lonzo Ball (knee/ MCL sprain) – OUT
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (groin) – OUT
Caris LeVert (groin) – OUT
Jeremy Lin (knee) – OUT
Time: 4:30 PM PST, 7:30 PM EST
Television: YES, SPECSN/SPECD
Radio: WFAN, 710 AM ESPN, 1330 AM ESPN DEPORTES