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Preview: Lakers vs. Nets

This season has been a year of tribulation for the Lakers (22-26) and it doesn't look like it's stopping anytime soon. Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace will miss tonight's season series finale against the Brooklyn Nets (28-19), the team's 4th stop in this seemingly never-ending road trip.

Howard is still feeling a lot of soreness on his right shoulder after re-aggravating it against the Suns a week ago. He'll be sitting out his 3rd-straight game tonight. Meanwhile, the NBA has handed down a 1-game suspension to World Peace for allegedly throwing punches on Brandon Knight during an altercation under the basket in Sunday's win versus the Pistons.

Not sure how the league office found any conclusive evidence that Metta had thrown punches at Knight after viewing the same footage shown on TV. Here's the clip (thanks to NBAshowtimeHD):

It's a weak assessment by the league office, to say the least. But nevertheless, Metta won't be playing tonight.

The Lakers do have enough players to compensate for both players and are certainly still have enough talent to win this game IF they stick to the gameplan and stay focused for 48 minutes. Even with everyone healthy, the Nets are still a formidable opponent, especially at the new Barclays Center.

Brooklyn owns one of the better home record in the league at 18-8 and are 8-2 in their last 10 games in their new building. The Nets fired their head coach Avery Johnson after the team had a miserable month of December going 3-10. They are 14-5 since under new head coach PJ Carlesimo.

If the Lakers are to win tonight, they will have to do something about Brook Lopez and Deron Williams. Lopez is averaging 18.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks this season. But against the purple and gold in his career, he's getting 22.9 points, 9.3 boards and 1.1 blocks per game. He had 23 points, 7 rebounds and no blocks in their loss at Staples Center back in November.

Williams is no stranger to the Lakers or their fans. This guy can take over a game at any time offensively with his passing and scoring and is one of a few point guards in the league who loves to post other point guards in the paint. That's something the Lakers have to watch out for defensively tonight. He's averaging 16.8 points and 7.7 assists this season but turns in 18.8 points and 8 dimes against the Lakers in his career, including a 22-point, 8-assist outing in the previous game.

Without Howard and World Peace, the Lakers will be tested on defense, on the boards and will have less reasons not to maintain their focus the entire night. In other words, anyone and everyone who plays tonight will have to step up their game on both ends of the floor for the Lakers to come out with their 3rd-straight win on the road.

This is the final meeting against the Nets this season. The Lakers are riding a 9-game winning streak over this franchise and and are playing their first ever game at Barclays Center.

Matchup of the Game

Pau Gasol vs. Brook Lopez: There's no question the Lakers are going to rely on Gasol heavily tonight on both baskets. He has responded very well since taking over for the injured Howard the last 2 games averaging 22.5 points, 11 rebounds and 1.5 blocks while shooting on a 54.4% clip. If he gets similar numbers tonight, the Lakers should have a good chance at capturing their 23rd win of the season. On the flip side, Lopez can also bring the same stats even against Howard. If the Nets win, it's a good bet Lopez would have a lot to say in it.

Keys to the Game

> Team Defense: Without their shot-blocker and toughest perimeter defender, the Lakers will have to dig deep as a team to help one another out in clogging lanes and protecting the rim. They can't let Williams have an easy time finding open teammates or slicing through the paint for layups. Pau will need to be extra sharp on D and has to be very active around the glass.

> Patient Offense: The Lakers are getting better each game their ball movement and simply reading the defense on offense. They also have to expect Carlesimo to go with a zone defense from time to time tonight. If the Laker offense become stagnant for too long or keep taking jumpshots against zone defense, winning will be that much difficult.

> Kobe Bryant: With the team more short-handed tonight, expect Kobe to put up more scoring than he's been doing lately. That's not to say that he's going to abandon being the main facilitator for the team. He's just going to be a little bit more aggressive on offense. Against the 5th best defensive team, the Lakers are going to need points from the Mamba.

Watch Out For

LAKERS: Steve Nash: Much like Kobe, Nash will feel the need to do more scoring and playmaking against the Nets. He still feels accountable for missing those 2 clutch free-throws against the Pistons, so it wouldn't come as a shock if we see an aggressive Nash on the floor.

NETS: Gerald Wallace: He was a one-man wrecking crew on defense for the Nets in their last game against the Lakers posting 5 steals and 3 blocks. If he can control Bryant tonight, the Lakers could be in deep trouble.

Game Info

Tonight @ Brooklyn Nets
Tip-off: 4:30 p.m. (PST)
Barclays Center
TV: TWC SportsNet (Southern California)
Radio: 710 AM ESPN/1330 KWKW

Injury Notes

LAKERS: Jordan Hill (hip) is out for season. Dwight Howard (shoulder) is out.

NETS: Tornike Shengelia (concussion) is out.

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Preview: Lakers vs. Nets

Part 3 of this 7-game road trip for the Lakers (16-7) continues 782 miles east of Chicago against the New Jersey Nets (6-17) — the worst team of the Eastern Conference. But having a sub .500 record doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an automatic L against the 2-time defending champs these days. The Nets are 4-6 at home and losers of 8 of their last 10 games, including their current 6-game skid. The Lakers are 6-5 on the road and have lost 4 of their last 5 games away from Staples Center. However, they’ve won the past 5 meetings with the Nets winning by an average of 17.6 points per game and haven’t lost in New Jersey since Mar. 17, 2006. This is the first matchup between these two teams.

Defense has been the focus of concern for the Lakers since the season began, but their offense has taken a stumble from the top spot in the NBA down to #4. They’re currently averaging 106.7 PPG, which is 8-points below from where they started the year. That has a lot to do with the team’s pattern of not running the Triangle as much as they need to which is causing poor floor spacing and very minimal ball movement. When that happens, you don’t have to be an elite defensive team to hold your own against the Lakers. However, the champs failed to score at least 100 points in 4 of their last 5 losses on the road. That’s by no accident. In this league, home teams generally play better on both sides of the floor, especially against the defending champs. So, the Lakers can’t always just concentrate on one area of the court and expect to come out victorious everytime. But is Phil Jackson concerned about their poor shooting? Yes, but not too much.

The Lakers will get to see their former teammate Jordan Farmar wearing a different jersey for the first time. He is the backup for Devin Harris but has started 2 games when Harris was out with a shoulder injury. Farmar is averaging 10.4 points and 4.6 assists per game in 26.1 minutes.

As for the rest of the Jersey boys, Brook Lopez leads the Nets in scoring and in blocks averaging 19.1 PPG and 1.5 BPG. Harris is averaging 16.3 PPG and leads the team in assists with 6.6 APG. Kris Humphries is New Jersey’s leading rebounder at 8.5 RPG.

New Jersey is 29th in the league in scoring putting up 93.4 PPG but is 16th in points allowed giving up 99.1 PPG. They’re also 20th in rebounding at 40.5 RPG. In their losses, the Nets are getting outscored by an average of 17.7 points. Meanwhile, the Lakers are coming off another frustrating loss against Chicago on Friday and have yet to put a string of games together where they’re playing consistent basketball on both sides of the court. They’re looking to bounce back against the Nets, but that all depends upon translating what the coaching staff needs them to do as a team on the floor.

GO LAKERS!!!

TP&G Blog’s Matchup of the Game

Pau Gasol vs. Brook Lopez: Both guys are putting up almost the same numbers on offense, but Pau has the edge in rebounding, assists and blocks.

Keys for the Lakers

Offense

1. Run the Offense: How many times have I listed this as a key on offense for them? I’m not the only one who thinks the Laker offense runs better when they use the Triangle until there’s no reason to.
2. Movement Without the Ball: An offense in constant motion puts so much pressure on any defense because it doesn’t allow the defense to settle and creates a lot of scoring opportunities under the basket.
3. Share the Rock: The more guys involved offensively the more options the Lakers have to score. Plus, more guys are willing to play well on the opposite side of the floor when they know their teammates are looking for them to score.

Defense

1. Focus: Against the Bulls, the Lakers planned on being intense defensively and stuck with it until the 2nd quarter where they lost their concentration when they got the double-digit lead. It would be nice to see that focus for the full 48 minutes against the Nets.
2. Smart Defense: The Nets have some shooters lying around like Anthony Morrow, Troy Murphy, Travis Outlaw, Harris and Farmar. The Lakers must be aware at all times which players they can and cannot send the double-team or defensive help from. They also need to eliminate silly fouls, especially at times when they shouldn’t be giving fouls.
3. Intensity: It’s true that when a team is playing well on one end that they end up doing the same on the other. The Lakers should come out hungry on defense because that will give them opportunities to run breaks for easy scores and should get them fired up on offense.

Game Info

Tip-off is at 10:00 a.m. (PST).  TV: KCAL-9 (Los Angeles)  Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN

Injury Update

NETS: Devin Harris will make a decision by game time whether or not he’ll play due to his shoulder injury. But, rookie Derrick Favors will play after suffering a bruised thigh on Thursday against Dallas.

Preview: Lakers vs. Nets

New Jersey Nets vs New York Knicks in New York

The Lakers (20-4) are on the second set of a back-to-back and their fourth game of this 5-game road trip that will conclude 610 miles away in Detroit from the Meadowlands tomorrow. Tonight, they face the team that set the worst start in the NBA history losing their first 18 games the New Jersey Nets (2-25) who are looking to play their only 11th home game of the season.

I know it’s very easy to overlook the Nets, but they could prove difficult to put away this time around. New Jersey hates to be the owner of the worst record in the league and would love to prove they’re not the push-overs everyone thinks they are against the defending champs.

Center Brook Lopez is having himself quite a nice season so far despite the team’s record. He had 26 points and 12 rebounds against the Lakers last month, so there’s no reason why he can’t match or even surpass that effort tonight. Guards Devin Harris and Courtney Lee are also two players who can be dangerous if left ignored. Harris put up 16 points and 6 assists and Lee got 15 points in their first meeting at Staples Center.

Meanwhile, the Lakers are probably thankful they got out of Milwaukee last Wednesday with a huge win thanks to the buzzer-beating heroics of Kobe Bryant. The Lakers have yet to play a good solid 48 minutes of basketball in this road trip, so rest assured their somewhat poor performance against the Bucks should not be treated as a norm on the road.

This road trip was another early test for the Lakers. It would have been nice to come home winning all five, but going 4-1 wouldn’t be too bad either. But, they can’t and shouldn’t look pass the Nets and the Pistons. There’s a whole of work to do before their highly-anticipated bout with the Cavaliers on Christmas Day.

The keys for the Lakers tonight is to overpower the Nets on offense and control the paint against Lopez and any dribble penetrations by Harris. The reason for New Jersey’s woeful record is their defense which is dead last in the entire association. But the Lakers can’t take that for granted and should look to punish them offensively as if the Nets are the best defensive team in the league.

It’s all about the mindset of not playing down to the level of the competition which slipped a bit for the Lakers the past few games. So, they need to get back to that kind of mentality.

Tip-off is at 5:00. TV: KCAL-9  Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN

GO LAKERS!!!

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