Showtime: 4:30pm PT
The Show hits the Barclays Center in the BK tonight, as the 7-8 Lakers try to bounce back from a tough shootout defeat last night against the Washington Wizards. Their opponents will be the Brooklyn Nets, inarguably the most disappointing team this young NBA season. The Nets are a stunning 4-10 on the year, a far cry from the championship expectations that many set on them during their flurry of offseason moves that set the league on fire. Fans everywhere felt that adding Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko to a core including Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson would make them into championship contenders. With KG anchoring the middle, the Nets were to become a defensive juggernaut, destroying opponents with their size and strength at nearly every position. The depth was there as well to fight against the overall age of the team, with Terry, Kirilenko, Reggie Evans, Shaun Livingston and Andray Blatche on the bench in reserve. Offensively, Deron Williams would be free to run the show, surrounded by more scoring weapons than he's ever had before.
Shockingly, all these maneuvers really did was make the Nets into a slow, plodding, injury-prone mess. Thus far anyway.
Over 14 games, Brooklyn is one of the worst defensive teams by almost any metric (last in defensive efficiency, 24th in opponents PPG) and at best, middling offensively (22nd in offensive efficiency, 21st in ppg). Kirilenko, Terry, Williams and Lopez have missed a combined 24 games, which is just the start of the team's troubles. Kevin Garnett looks like the wheels may have come off the train at age 37, with Terry and Pierce struggling to return to form in such a different team environment. The most disconcerting sign has to be Deron Williams, whose ankle problems from last year have somehow seemed to have gotten worse. The team's alleged best player has been awful, which has to be one of, if not the leading cause in Brooklyn's disappointing start.
This is all to say: if the Lakers are going to nab their second road victory of the year, the time would be right....about....now.
LA visits Brooklyn in just the Nets sixth home game of the season, but with the home team crippled with injuries. The latest reports have Lopez, Williams, Terry and Kirilenko sitting out for the night, which of course, is to the Lakers' benefit. The Show was its usual feisty, hard-working self last night, falling to the Wizards after a flurry of careless turnovers and non-existent defense on the superb John Wall. If the Lakers want to win tonight, they will have to do a better job on Livingston, a former Clipper lottery pick, who has played his best ball in years as the understudy for Deron Williams.
The drill, as always, is the same--they need to outrebound their opponents, who now do not have a significant size advantage with Lopez out, take better care of the ball and not let the opposing perimeter players, including eternal Laker foe Paul Pierce, beat them up. LA has been atrocious defensively on the road this year and need to not let the potential of the Nets offense bubble to the surface. Jordan Farmar, Nick Young and Xavier Henry in particular may be the key on both ends of the floor, as they'll need to not only break down the BK defense inside-out, but also likely have to keep tabs on Joe Johnson, Pierce and Livingston all night.
The Nets might be just 4-10 to start the year, but the Lakers' 1-5 record on the road means that they might not have any significant advantage tonight. If there's a place to turn that around, it'd be on Atlantic-Pacific.
--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino