Preview & Chat: The New Jersey Nets

Kurt —  March 27, 2009

NBA: MAR 06 Nets at Magic

Records: Lakers 57-14 (1st in the West) Nets 30-41 (11th in the East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 113.6 (1st in league) Nets 108.7 (13th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.4 (6th in league) Nets 111.2 (24th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Trevor Ariza, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Nets Trenton Hassell, Keyon Dooling, Vince Carter, Yi Jianlian. Brook Lopez

Lakers Coming In: One quick thought on the sad bench performance in the second quarter last night — it forced Phil Jackson to use a more playoff-like rotation in the fourth quarter. Gasol and Odom stayed out with Farmar, Walton and Sasha at the start. Then almost as fast as DJ came in for Gasol, Kobe returned for Odom. A couple more minutes and the entire group of starters were back on the floor, until the game was very well in hand.

Andrew Bynum could change some of that. Here’s Phil Jackson’s vague answer on how he might use Andrew Bynum when he returns:

“We’ll just have to see how he comes back, not when,” Jackson said. “Does he come back in condition where he can play 25 to 30 minutes? Is he going to be a ‘Starbury’ (Stephon Marbury of the Boston Celtics) where he’s playing 12 or 14 minutes a game, and then increase it that way? So, we’ll see how he fits in. He’s running on the court, and that’s about it. He’s doing some basketball skills. There’s a considerable amount of time before he’s even able to practice with us.”

The Nets Coming In: Devin Harris is expected back tonight, returning from a left shoulder injury. I did not list him as a starter but he may start and certainly will play.

Vince Carter and Devin Harris have had very good seasons for the Nets (particularly Harris), but Brook Lopez has turned out to be a solid rookie center. He shoots 52.5% from the floor, grabs 15.3% of the available rebounds and has an above average PER of 17.6. Here is what ESPN’s David Thorpe is saying about him:

Lopez is still playing at a high level, and is constantly making a bid to prove he was the overall steal of the draft. He’s the rare rookie that is contributing strongly in all three phases of the game: offense, defense and rebounding.

And his blocked shot numbers have also been amazingly consistent: He has averaged 1.6 bpg, 1.8 bpg and 1.7 bpg (twice) in four of the first five months of the season (he blocked 2.3 shots per game in December). Add in the amount of times he’s changed shots or intimidated guys to not take a shot at all, and you can see his impact on defense.

Keys To The Game:Honestly, I have not seen a lot of the Nets lately. But here’s the handful of notes I have:

If you work hard to deny Vince Carter the ball, he can get frustrated. That kind of focus may be harder to do with Harris back in the lineup.

The Lakers must close out on three point shooters — Carter, Dooling, Jarvis Hayes and Bobby Simmons are all shooting better than 40% from three in the last 10 games. Their offenses wants to penetrate then if you collapse kick it out for a corner three. If you let them, they will beat you from out there.

Defensively, the Nets do a lot of ball pressure on the guards. The Lakers need to not turn the ball over and attack that when they can.

The sad play of the bench in the second quarter forced Phil Jackson to play the starters through the Fourth Quarter last night, just to be safe. Tonight that could catch up to the Lakers if the bench falters again. So, the Bench needs not to suck.

Where you can watch: 4:30 start out here in the West. KCAL 9 in LA.