Preview and chat: The New Jersey Nets

Kurt —  December 22, 2006

Those Super Subs: I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a game-flow chart (from the amazing as definitive as the one from the Laker win in Minnesota. When the starters were on the floor the Lakers struggled, when the bench guys came on so did the Lakers.

Here’s why that matters tonight: when the Lakers met the Nets last month, it was the Laker bench that sparked the big runs. (To be clear, part of that was due to Kwame Brown, who was coming off the bench back then and was a team best +9.) After Wednesday night, you have to feel a little more confident about this one.

One other note about the subs big night. Give a little credit to Phil for just staying out of the way and letting it happen. Too many coaches would have either stuck with their standard rotations or brought Kobe back in the middle of the run because, well, he’s Kobe. Phil let it be and the Lakers got the win.

Cook starts. Brian Cook replaced Radmanovic in the starting lineup in Minnesota, and he earned that right — for the four previous games Cook had been in the positive when on the court, Radmanovic in the negative. That switched against Minnesota, but I wouldn’t change back — it appears that the second unit with RadMan, Evans, Farmar and Bynum have some chemistry, I’d like to see how that plays out over the next few games.

Iverson in Denver. My gut reaction is this is going to work (for them, it’s bad for the Lakers if the West gets even deeper). Iverson fits the system well, he likes to play at a fast pace and Denver is playing faster than the Suns so far this season. Also, while Iverson has a reputation as a ball hog, 17,7% of his possessions this season ends in an assist (for some comparison, Kobe is at 15.5, Odom at 20.6 and Walton at 25.4). He can pass, but in Philly he had no finishers around him, now he’s got a team full of them.

As for the egos, this could be like the earlier days of Kobe and Shaq – they will get along fine if they are winning. If they have a few years of big success that could fall apart, but I think Nuggets ownership and fans would accept that.

Better than their record indicates. Right now the Nets have an 11-14 record, but they are playing better than that – they should be 13-12, which actually be fourth best in the East.

Last meeting.
Last month, Vince Carter led the way for the Nets (like many times this season) with 21 points and 11 boards. However, the Lakers held him to 42.9% shooting on the night, if they can do that again it will be a good sign. Along those lines, Kobe’s knee is healthier this time around, but he is still going to need some help containing Carter.

Also, Kobe shot just 33% last time around, with Odom (an his 21 points from the first game) gone, he is going to have to be more efficient this time around.

The guys who were efficient for the Lakers were Kwame Brown, who was 5 of 6 from the floor and grabbed a team-high 9 rebounds, Walton (71.4% [eFG%] in getting 10 points, and Smush Parker (60%) in getting his 13. Those three need to step up again.

Things to look for: Can the Lakers slow Nenad Krstic? A few our you out there just laughed, but Kristic scored 20 last meeting on 9 of 15 shooting, and in his last 10 games is shooting 52.2% (best of the Nets starters) and is averaging 17.7 points and 7 rebounds. Kwame is going to need to step up defensively.

I just like watching Jason Kidd play, did even when he was at Cal. And, in the last 10 games, he’s averaging 10 assists per game.

The Nets don’t create a lot of turnovers (just 15% of opponent possessions end in a turnover, second worst in the league). If the Lakers can curb that problem on their end tonight, it would help.

The defensive weak spots this season for the Nets have been at the point guard (opposing points are shooting 53%) and at the four. This is a night Smush and Cook/VladRad can step up.

The Lakers should be fairly rested here considering this is a road trip: the starters got plenty of rest in Minnesota and after tonight no games until Monday. I like the Lakers in this spot (unless Tony, Silvio and Paulie Walnuts are sitting courtside, then the fix may be in).