In the lead up to Lakers/Nets this evening, FB&G asked three questions to three writers about the Nets season so far and who will win the game. Let’s get to it…
Devin Kharpertian, The Brooklyn Game: It’s not sustainable as a standalone record, because that’d project the Nets to about 60-62 wins. That’s not happening. It is sustainable, though, in the sense that they’ve beaten the right teams (mostly) and lost to the right teams (mostly). This is about what I expected after these specific eight games, but that doesn’t mean it’ll stay that way.
Emile Avanessian, Hardwood Hype: As expected, the Nets boast one of the league’s most potent offenses, scoring 109.7 points per 100 possessions (third in the NBA, per Basketball Reference; the Lakers rank seventh, at 108). More surprisingly, they are defending at merely a below average clip (104.1 points allowed per 100 possessions), rather than the disastrous one many predicted. Doubly impressive is the fact that they’ve managed this strong start with both Gerald Wallace and MarShon Brooks plagued by injury. Not expecting them to continue winning three out of every four, but 50-55 wins in the mediocre East looks attainable.
Rey Moralde, The Internet (seriously, Rey’s everywhere): I feel like this team could win 50 games in the weak East. Let’s face it; it’s the Miami Heat and then everyone else. Second place is up for grabs. With that said, the team is much improved than last year. Joe Johnson and a healthy Brook Lopez will do that.
2. Which individual match up are you most looking forward to?
Devin: Getting this out of the way: Brook Lopez vs. Dwight Howard. Duh. Obvious. Besides that, though, I’m very excited to see the matchup between Avery Johnson and new Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni. D’Antoni’s spread pick-and-roll offense, even without Steve Nash, should do wonders for the Lakers, and Johnson has made some quirky decisions, particularly late in games. Interested in how these two styles & rotations will clash.
Emile: The Nets have played two quality bigs this season, and not done a great deal to slow down either. Nik Pekovic hung 21 on them in the Wolves’ massive comeback (or Nets’ epic collapse, you choose) on November 5, while DeMarcus Cousins hit them with 23 in the second half on Sunday night, in a contest that ended up being more contested that it ought to have been. Lopez will provide a good litmus test for Dwight’s recovery, and while he will offset some of D-12’s offensive production, but it’s tough to see anything short of foul trouble stopping the Lakers’ man in the middle.
Rey: I don’t care if this is potentially going to be one-sided but I want to see how Dwight does against Brook Lopez. After all, they were going to be traded for each other at one point. Let’s see if Brook can hold his own against Dwight. Also, Dwight averages 20.5 points and 14.5 boards against Lopez in his career. Maybe it will be one-sided.
3. What’s your prediction for who wins and why?
Devin: I’ll take the Lakers. They’re clicking now and just too talented. If they catch on to D’Antoni’s relatively easy style as quickly as they should, the Nets won’t be the only team they should dispose of without much issue. One thing worth noting: the Nets do have a stronger bench. If they can get the Lakers starters in foul trouble, they could make it interesting.
Emile: The Nets are better than expected on D, but with no answer for Dwight Howard (or Pau Gasol for that matter), and with Kobe playing some of the best ball of career, it’s tough to see them finding enough stops to pull out a victory. Meanwhile, after a brutal start, the Lakers have shown improvement at the defensive end, having climbed to 14th in defensive efficiency. I expect the game to be competitive throughout, with the Lakers pulling away late, say 110-100?
Rey: The Lakers will win 115-100 (no tacos!). It will be a track meet like we’re getting accustomed with the Lakers. Eventually, things will slow down and the battle will be won in the trenches. Unless clotheslines and elbows are allowed, I don’t think the Nets’ frontline can stand toe-to-toe against the Laker frontline.