Preview & Chat: The New Jersey Nets

Kurt —  December 19, 2009

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Records: Lakers 20-4 (1st in West) Nets 2-25 (their scouts are looking hard at John Wall)
Offensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 108.1 (13th in league), Nets 96.5 (30th in league)
Defensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 99.6 (1st in league) Nets 108.8 (22nd in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Nets: Devin Harris, Courtney Lee, Chris Douglas Roberts, Josh Boone, Brook Lopez

The Lakers Coming in: Not much to say, the Lakers play three games in the next four days, and it would be good to get off to a fast start through that stretch. The last two games should be challenging.

By the way, those of you who like money, you should be using the Lakers to predict the stock market.

The Nets Coming in: How bad are things? Nets are Scorching this morning compared the team to the Hindenburg. See more of their thoughts in the previous post.

One thing that is different since the last time these teams met (Thanksgiving weekend): Under Kiki Vandeweghe the Nets have been a better offensive team, scoring 9 more points per 100 possessions. The problem is they are now giving up 9 more points per 100 possessions on defense.

Keys to game:On the television in the locker room before a game teams usually teams run video of that night’s opponent. Tonight, instead Phil Jackson should have the video of the Celtics loss to the 76ers last night up, just as a reminder that any team can beat any other team in this league. You can’t take any night off.

Last meeting between these two was a laugher, the only thing of real note was the Lakers did go small a lot — Bynum sat, Gasol went to center, Artest to the four and Kobe to the three. We may see that again.

When you read Dean Oliver’s Basketball on Paper — the bible of the advanced stats revolution — one of the first points he makes is obvious: The team that shoots better wins almost every time. (Sure, you don’t need stats to tell you that, but he wanted to reinforce that however you do the math, basketball remains about putting the ball in the hoop.) The Nets have the worst field goal percentage in the league, although if you use True Shooting Percentage (basically points per shot attempt) they do slide past Chicago into 29th. The Lakers force teams to shoot a lower percentage than any team in the NBA, however you slice it. Ergo….

The Nets run a lot of high screen and roll, with Harris handling the ball and Lopez setting the screen. On paper this is a more deadly combination than it has turned out to be this season (I really don’t understand the regression of Harris), but the Lakers still need to defend it well. Bigs need to cut off Harris, he is quick and if he turns the corner he can be a problem. Lopez has a lot of good post moves, and at times they will isolate him down there and he has a lot of low post moves.

The Lakers do catch the Nets on the second game of a back to back, New Jersey was run out of the building by the Raptors last night. Chris Douglas Roberts was the guy trying to motivate his teammates saying everyone needed to pick up their games. We’ll see if they come out fired up for the world champs, but if the Lakers can jump out to an early lead they may be able to take the will out of them.

The Nets will run at times, especially when Rafer Alston is in, and they have guys like Courtney Lee and Chris Douglas Roberts who operate well in space. The Lakers simply need to get back in transition and not turn the ball over.

Where you can watch: This game is on Channel 9 here in Los Angels starting at 5, and also is on ESPN 710 radio.