Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, and Pau Gasol
Tonight, the Brooklyn Nets will head down to Hollywood to face Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and the Los Angeles Lakers. There are tons of storylines heading into this game. The biggest might be that this game may be the debut of Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni, if his knee feels up to it. This will also be the first battle between Brook Lopez and Dwight Howard since Howard’s non-trade to the Nets. Lastly, we will see two 2-time gold medalists, Deron Williams and Kobe Bryant, go head-to-head.
Intriguing storylines are for fans to debate and you can talk about those things in the comments section of this article. At FRWD, we are more interested in how the game will be played and what to watch for in the game.
Let’s first look at the Lakers (5-5). After a slow start to the season, they fired their former coach Mike Brown after only 5 games and hired former Suns and Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni to take his place. Since the firing, the Lakers have went 4-1 and are playing very well. They are winning these games with their offense, not their defense. In the 4 wins since the firing, they have scored over 100 points in every game and they scored a season-high 119 in their last game on Sunday against Houston.
This team is lead by their two superstars, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard. Kobe is having a great year despite having been in the NBA for a very long time. He doesn’t seem to have lost anything. Dwight has also played well, averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds. His injury from last season doesn’t seem to be effecting him very much if at all. The Nets will need to figure out a way to contain these two.
Brooklyn (6-2) has won 5 games in a row entering this game, although those wins have been against mediocre teams: Orlando, Orlando, Cleveland, Boston without Rondo, and Sacramento. Still, 5 wins in a row is very good in the NBA and this is the best the Nets have played since the Jason Kidd era. This game is the beginning of the harder part of their schedule.
At 6-2, the Nets begin this night at 2nd place in the eastern conference, behind only their crosstown rival, the Manhattan Knicks. It will be difficult for them to continue winning at this pace when the schedule gets harder, but they are talented enough to do it.
Injuries: For the first time in a very long time, the Nets had every player healthy in their last game in Sacramento. Tonight, that will be the case again, although Deron Williams has been nursing an arm injury the last few days. The Lakers will be without both their starting and backup point guards, Steve Nash and Steve Blake. They need Nash back ASAP.
Deron Williams vs. Darius Morris. Advantage: Williams
Darius Morris was not planning on playing many minutes this season, but because of the Lakers’ many injuries at point guard, he will be starting. On Sunday against Houston, he scored a career high 12 points in his 3rd NBA start. Still, he should be no match for Deron Williams. If the Nets want to have a chance at winning this game, D-Will will need to have a huge performance. Going up against a second year player who has gotten little playing time with L.A., Deron might be able to score 30 points tonight.
Joe Johnson vs. Kobe Bryant. Advantage: Bryant
Even though Kobe has been in the NBA since 1996, his body is showing very few signs of aging. This season he is still averaging over 26 points and nearly 6 rebounds and 6 assists per game. That is unbelievable for a guy with as much milage as Kobe has. In the Houston game on Sunday, he had his first triple-double of the season. Joe Johnson, on the other hand, has not played well so far this year and had maybe his worst performance, shooting 1-10, on Sunday against Sacramento. Let’s see if JJ will finally step up on the big stage in Hollywood.
Gerald Wallace vs. Metta World Peace. Advantage: Wallace
World Peace’s best NBA days are behind him, but he is still a good defender and can contribute a bit on offense. He is averaging over 13 ppg this season after averaging under 8 last season. Still, he does not shoot a good percentage and I’m not sure he is an asset to the Lakers at this point in his career. Gerald Wallace played his first game on Sunday after missing 6 straight. He played poorly, but he was definitely rusty. Luckily, he got that game out of the way and he should be near 100% for this contest.
Kris Humphries vs. Pau Gasol. Advantage: Gasol
Gasol has always been one of the most fundamental big men in the NBA and is extremely talented. He can shoot, pass, and dribble on offense and he is an above average defender and rebounder. Basically, he is a complete player. Humphries is not a complete player. Although he may be a better rebounder than Gasol, Humphries is a few inches shorter than him and will not be able to defend him very well. The Lakers’ big men will play very well tonight.
Brook Lopez vs. Dwight Howard. Advantage: Howard
This is the matchup that everyone is interested in. Lopez has all the motivation in the world to play well tonight and this game was definitely circled on his calendar. In the past, Lopez has been criticized for his lack of toughness and will-to-win. He can silence his critics with a good game tonight. I will be very interested to see if he steps up, boxes Howard out, and is able to grab some rebounds. Until Lopez proves that he can rebound consistently, Howard will be the better player.
Prediction: Lakers 115, Nets 105
I think that the win streak will end tonight. Although the Nets have been playing well recently, so have the Lakers, winning 4 of their last 5. Also, I think Dwight’s motivation will show more than Brook’s and Howard will have a great game. Kobe will show up too and Joe Johnson will be unable to stop him. I think that later in the season, once the Nets have figured out how to utilize Joe Johnson, they will have a better chance at beating a team like the Lakers. But right now, L.A. is just too powerful.