Preview and Chat: The Brooklyn Nets

Darius Soriano —  November 20, 2012

Records: Lakers 5-5 (7th in the West), Nets 6-2 (2nd in the East)
Offensive ratings*: Lakers 106.2 (4th in the NBA), Nets 105.6 (6th in the NBA)
Defensive ratings*: Lakers 98.4 (8th in the NBA), Nets 102.1 (18th in the NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Darius Morris, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard
Nets: Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Brook Lopez
Injuries: Lakers: The Steves (Nash and Blake) are out; Nets: none

The Lakers Coming in: Before we get to how the team is playing, there’s some house keeping to take care of…

Steve Blake remains sidelined with his abdominal strain. Odds are he misses tomorrow’s game against the Kings as well. This means more Darius Morris and Chris Duhon point guard duo. It’s also been reported that Mike D’Antoni will make his sideline debut tonight, which, of course, means the end of the Bernie Bickerstaff era. Bernie goes out with the best winning percentage in franchise history with .800 (4-1) record.

As for the Lakers, they’ve won two in a row and four of their last five. They’re finally .500 on the season and can now focus on making up ground on the teams in the west that have started out hot (Spurs, Grizzlies, Clippers). Of course we’re a long way from even talking playoffs but the west is sure to be a minefield with 5 very good teams (at least right now) who will all want home court advantage once the playoffs begin. Someone will not get it.

As for the Lakers, they’ve been playing much better offensive basketball in their last several games (Spurs game excluded) and seem to be quite comfortable playing in D’Antoni’s scheme. They’re operating on an open side of the floor more often and that’s leading to better driving lanes, easier reads on their passes, and more one on one action in the post. Defensively they still need work, though their lack of turnovers has helped cut down the amount of open court baskets they’re giving up. There’s still work to be done in transition, but that’s going to be one of the stories of the season.

The Nets Coming in: Rather than me giving my take on the Nets so far this season, I reached out to Devin Kharpertian from the The Brooklyn Game to answer a few questions about the team. Here is the Q&A:

How has the Williams/Johnson back court looked? Has the chemistry already developed?

It hasn’t — not yet. Johnson has really struggled trying to get into a rhythm in Brooklyn, and outside of one fourth quarter in which he dropped 16 points, hasn’t developed well within this offense yet. The pieces are there — Williams has found Johnson for open looks on numerous occasions, and Johnson spacing the floor gives Williams that much more room to operate with. But they haven’t looked like the best backcourt in the NBA so far.

Brook Lopez is much maligned for his defense and rebounding, has he improved in those areas this season?

The short answer is yes. The long answer is, he’s still not great in either area, but he’s progressing. Avery Johnson has a list of defensive goals for Lopez unlike in any season before, and he’s evolving accordingly: he’s trapping pick-and-rolls more often, he’s swatting shots (he’s seventh in the league in block percentage) and exerting more energy on the defensive end than I’ve seen since his rookie year. It’s not “there” yet, and he probably will never be better than an average defender or rebounder at best, but it’s a step up from previous years.

With such a top heavy roster, the Lakers have had some issues with their bench this season. Have the Nets had the same issues?

They haven’t — it’s been the opposite, actually. The self-proclaimed “Bench Mob” has carried the Nets on a few occasions, on both ends of the floor. They plugged the Raptors offense opening night after a 35-point outburst in the first quarter, and they outscored the starters Sunday night against Sacramento. Andray Blatche has fluctuated from being the awful Blatche we know and the Blatche we hope he can be. C.J. Watson has been fantastic, Reggie Evans has brought his usual energy and MarShon Brooks is getting back into the swing of things.

Have you noticed any sort of culture change around the team with new players, the move to Brooklyn, and the raised expectations?

It’d be impossible not to notice. The fans, the roster, the colors, the arena, even the locker rooms… everything is different. It’s not the picture-perfect vision that Mikhail Prokhorov may have had when he bought the team, but they’re acting like a team that’s expected to win every single night, and enjoying it. When the fans chant, they don’t do it ironically. It’s a real team, with real stakes, for the first time in a long time. It’s new and refreshing and exciting, all at once.

Nets Blogs: The Brooklyn Game is a fantastic site you should go visit. Earlier I answered a few questions for them about the Lakers heading into tonight that you can read here.

Keys to game: You’d be hard pressed to find two teams that have gone through as much change as the Lakers & Nets in the last 12 months. These are, essentially, two brand new teams with brand new identities about to square off. That said, the story lines that revolve around this game are essentially as old as the sport of basketball. Individual match ups sit atop the marquee and how these play out will then dictate how the rest of the game plays out.

The two match ups that intrigue most are Kobe Bryant vs. Joe Johnson and Dwight Howard vs. Brook Lopez.

From an offensive standpoint, Kobe will need to continue to attack the paint and force Johnson to defend him close to the basket. Johnson has good size and can do a good job of bothering his drives and shots in the paint, but that mustn’t deter Kobe from getting into the paint and pressuring the defense.

Defensively, Kobe will have to defend Johnson all over the floor and ensure he doesn’t find his rhythm on his jumper. Johnson isn’t relying on isolations as much as he has in the past, but he’s still a threat to create on an island — especially for his floater when driving to the rim. Johnson is also a spot up threat so Kobe can’t just leave him alone (like he did Chandler Parsons) and allow him to shoot uncontested jumpers.

As for the Howard/Lopez duel, the expectation is that Howard can bully Lopez on the block and use his superior strength to get deep post position and score inside. This will be especially effective on P&R’s where Howard sets the screen, dives to the paint, and then wait for the ball to come back to him after a pass or two around the wing. Defensively, Howard will have his hands full with the versatile attack Lopez offers. Lopez will flash a variety of post moves and can shoot his jumper out to mid-range very easily. Howard must pressure Lopez’s shot but not get so caught up that he gives up angles for Lopez to get off his hook shot or turn around jumper if he turns a drive into a quick post up.

The other match up that is worth watching is Deron Williams against Darius Morris. Williams, of course, is an all-star player and Morris is not close to that level at all. But, what Morris has been bringing to the table nightly is plus-level defense. Williams is used to being able to bullying his man with his superior size and then use his quickness to get by his man but Morris is equally big and has shown good lateral movement when guarding the ball. If Morris can slow Williams even a little, the Lakers advantage at other positions only becomes more defined.

Moving away from the individual battles, the Lakers can have a lot of success if they move the ball well on offense and then crash their offensive glass hard. The Nets don’t defend well as the ball moves around the floor and often fall short on their second and third rotations. Furthermore, when shots go up, they don’t rebound the ball very well and that will give Pau, Howard, and Hill the chance to extend possessions (especially when Lopez is in the game).

If the Lakers do these things well while still playing at a fast pace, they have a good shot to win tonight. The Nets will put up a good fight and will try to exploit the Lakers in transition and with the P&R in the half court, but if the defense can tighten up just a bit they can get the stops they’ll need.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start on TWC Sports Net. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM.

*If you’ve been paying attention to the offensive and defensive efficiency numbers in the game previews, you’ll notice today’s numbers look different. That’s due to the fact that I’ve changed the site that I gather these stats from. Moving forward, I’ll use this new site as my resource. Just an FYI.

Darius Soriano

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93 responses to Preview and Chat: The Brooklyn Nets

  1. Mike D’Antoni will become the Lakers 24th man to coach the Lakers in their history. For those like me hoping this will be the start of an era: There have been really been 5 main coaches in Laker history: Kundla, Shaus, Sharman, Riley, and Jackson. Between them they account for 27 of our 31 trips to the finals and 15 of our 16 chips. We have missed the finals for the last two years. Believe it or not, there have only been 4 times in our history where we had a streak of 3 or more years without a finals trip (incredible – but true). We have won 4 of our last 5 games with a transitional coach, which is as it should be. Anyone could throw this team out there and win 55-60 games. We need a good coach to get us into the finals and a chip. A 55 win season and a western conference final trip is simply not acceptable. It is not all the coach, however the coach changes the odds. A great coach could make us 35%-40% to win it all this year. A bad coach could drop us to 20-25%. Let’s see where D’Antoni falls on this spectrum, and hope it is on the positive side.

  2. What site do you go to now Darius for the efficiency rankings? Also, were you using Hollinger’s rankings before?
    Finally, did you notice that Hakim Warrick had a PER of 28.5 prior to yesterday’s game (gulp!)? It’s now down to a less hilarious 18.27 – even though he’s averaging 3 pts and 1.7 rebounds a game in 8.7 minutes a game!

  3. Today and Friday are true tests. I actually like Morris better against Williams the Nash. Williams might abuse Steve in the lane if he was playing. Giant moment for Darius tonight. Pau needs to man up against Kardasian as he can cause Pau problems on the boards.

    Expecting another 220 point game settled in 4th quarter.

  4. ” Of course we’re a long way from even talking playoffs but the west is sure to be a minefield with 5 very good teams (at least right now) who will all want home court advantage once the playoffs begin. Someone will not get it.” In addition, two of the five will meet in the 1st round, this is what it’s all about…let the games continue.Lakers s/b 6-5 after playing Nets tonight. Joe Johnson is struggling, Crash just returned. Nets do have the superior bench, but L. A. wins tonight, giving their new coach his 1st “w” with the Lakers.

  5. I would like to see MWP giving J.Johnson a headache.

  6. Does every bench in the league self-proclaim themselves as the “Bench Mob”?

    I winced when Devin was talking about their bench, mainly because I thought we should have made a run for CJ Watson this offseason. Maybe he was never really attainable, but he’s the rare ideal backup who doesn’t mind small minutes behind a top-shelf starting PG. Not surprised at all that he’s doing a great job of manning the Nets’ bench.

  7. Kobe Alert: KB filled up the stat sheet last game, and went by Rudy T for 139th in total rebounds. He is also closing in on DJ for 40th on the list of all time dimes. When you are known as a “me first”, shooting guard and you are closing in on one of the Celtic greats for dimes, you are filling it up. Kobes needs 252 more points for 30k. Mike D’Antoni will be KB’s 9th coach. The list and the number of games they have coached during the Kobe era: Jackson (892), Harris ( 176), Brown (71), Rudy T (43), Hamblen (39), Rambis (37), Bickerstaff (5), Bertka (1), D’Antoni (?). Obviously much like Mike, almost all of KB’s success is tied to one coach. He has already done one thing that MJ did not – and that is to win titles with almost completely different rosters. Let’s hope he can do another thing that MJ could not, and that is win titles with more than one coach.

  8. I predict Kobe keeps it going with another double digit assists game. And Dwight gets his first 20-20 with Lakers.And hoping for another Wallace/MWP shoving match for old times sake.

  9. I would like to see MWP give Magic Johnson a headache. I know, I know Robert, respect the lore (and rings); but he’s awful. Jim pays through the nose for this roster, and Magic’s still throwing him under the bus (pi).

  10. Gotta love the start .. But the finish is of more importance.

  11. I don’t know what is the greater indictment of Brown, that he had a team this talented so confused, or that he never had them play anywhere near as hard as they did for the first 4 mins of this game.

    Clearly this team was never behind Brown, and just did not want to play for him.

  12. Sacre is hysterical.

  13. What a beautiful fast break led by Artest. MWP to Pau back to Artest for the layup.

  14. Pau’s guy is going off again.

  15. I wait all day to watch shots like that
    4 for 4

  16. Jamison is really wasted space. How long do Lakers keep this guy,

  17. This is embarrassing. Every other team brings in guys off the bench that immediately light it up against us. And yet we’re stuck with scrubs who shouldn’t even sniff the court. Except for Hill.

  18. Sweet Jesus, what has gotten into MWP in the last few games and how to we preserve this effective aggression. Guy is looking more and more like Ron Artest these days…that’s a good thing.

  19. bring back bernie bickerstaff

  20. MWP is really in great shape! Wonder how long before Kobe ISO PLAY comes into play 😉

  21. I am beginning to think that Jamison is just a wash… sigh.. I had high hopes for him… he just can’t bury a basket.

  22. So….flopping…nothing happening there I guess.

  23. Poor DMo, getting a taste of the superstar whistle over the last couple of minutes of the half. Someone needs to tell this crew that Darius isn’t a rookie….

  24. Last 3 games 57, 60, 57 opponents pts in 1st half. Have to tighten up the defense. And Lakers only scored 22 and 21 pts in the two games 4th quarters. Have to defend or this may be a loss.

  25. Umm.. Morris is getting called for some realllllyyyy wishy washy fouls. Unfortunate considering how good of a job he’s actually doing against D-Will.

  26. Just watched Greg Anthony describe a completely different first half than the one I watched. In his opinion the Lakers didn’t play inside out, I thought I saw them dump the ball into the post many times myself…

    My favourite was when he shared his thought that Lopez outplayed Howard in the 1st half. Lopez has 17 points (on 12 shots), 3 rebounds and 3 turnovers. I may add the reason he has 17 points (and why he always kills us) is Pau can’t guard guys who can hit face up jumpers.

    Dwight has 15 points (on 8 shots), 7 rebounds, an assist, 1 turnover and 2 blocks (should be 3 but he got robbed by a garbage ‘foul’ call).

    How is Lopez outplaying Dwight?

  27. Biggest problem is the subs, they are just horrible. Great start and the subs came in the second quarter and got outscored badly. Starters came back and stopped the bleeding, but all the momentum was with the Nets. Now Lakers need to come out and establish control again and hopefully not have another terrible 3rd quarter.

  28. I knew that B-Lo was a good offensive center, but I didn’t picture him having damn near 20 pts @ the half .. Pau has to do a better job closing out on him. What, does he believe that Lopez has the athleticsm to blow by him on a close-out? The team, as a whole, has to make their presence felt defensively in the 2nd half or Coach D’s debut will end up as a loss and if the game remains close, expect to see the HAH (Hack A Howard) Strategy.

  29. Loving sacred bench antics – brings back memories of turiaf Aka predator on the bench

  30. Not to be too dramatic – but this is a very important game. First game for MD, and if you take a look at the schedule combined with our record, we can’t afford to drop this. We need to get tough. Defense is pitiful. Bench is pitiful. MD needs to get some people to improve (not that he has had a chance yet). This is the other part of coaching. Jamison and Defense are his major projects.

  31. We miss more absolutely wide open 3’s than a youth league team. Seriously.

  32. When did Pau turn in Mel Counts. So weak on D.

  33. When was the last time Kobe took a shot?

  34. Ko: I agree this game he’s getting shredded by Lopez.

  35. We have nobody shooting above 50% from the line

  36. Lopez is using Pau as a pylon and as we all know Lopez has that all world foot speed.

    God, what happened to Pau, he was never a defensive stalwart, but he was never this useless. His offence is still good, he does rebound, but is there a guy in the league he can guard one on one?

  37. Joe: I think Pau could guard Jamison (sorry – could not resist)

  38. So, does Reggie Evans get a flop warning for that? If not, then I daresay the league’s new “anti flopping” measures are worthless.

  39. hey – he heard me

  40. If Reggie Evans doesn’t get fined for that flop under the new rule….then the new rule is truly meaningless….


    Sorry for the repeat Blizzard–you and I must have had the same thought at the same time

  41. Is there a more dislikable player in the NBA than Reggie Evans?

  42. 1) Chris Duhon is the best backup PG we have.

    2) Pau plays much better at a high pace, when he has to go on instinct instead of thinking.

    3) Our Lakers team is exciting to watch. Just listen to that STAPLES buzz.

  43. I hate Evans.

    So their corpse (Stackhouse) can drain a jumper, but our corpse (Jamison) can’t.

  44. Subtle coaching tweak—Duhon showing a little better veteran saavy against DWill—bring back Morris to play against the second unit–good job coach…get the kid some confidence back…

  45. Evans is flopping like crazy out there, and of course the refs call it…the NBA is all talk no action.

  46. Ugly start to the quarter but at least the reserves are holding serve. That’s what they’re supposed to do.

  47. This is a big game, so far 4-0 against teams below 500, but 1-5 against teams 500 or better. We need to start beating some better teams sooner or later.

  48. We’re seeing why Morris isn’t ready quite for prime time yet – sure his defensive energy is great (though not necessarily smart – the repeat trips to the line for Williams/wide open 3’s at the end of the half etc.. prove that) and we’re not seeing any ability to run the team. Reminds me of a young Devin Harris – he’s still operating at too fast a speed and is only looking for his own shot and passing up too late. Blake has his issues for sure – but playing helter skelter isnt one of them. Kobe again tonight is having to handle and initiate the offense too much and create for himself – this is where they need Nash back asap.

  49. This bench is stupid bad, no one can shoot worth a xxxxxxx

  50. Lakers bench is horrible. Haven’t done anything all season.

  51. Granted, Dwight looks lost at the free throw line tonight, but the Lakers can’t go away from him here.

  52. Dwight free throws will cost them the game. He is getting worse.

  53. 1 point in almost the half way mark of the quarter…..WOW our bench sucks

  54. At this rate, the starters need to play all 48. Pathetic.

  55. Why not put Pau down in the post and put Dwight above the free throw line on the same side with Kobe for a pick n roll?

  56. Why can’t Pau play D like that more often?

  57. And Kobe missing some free throws.

  58. Kobe to Pau to Dwight for the smash.

  59. Priority #1: Practice free throws

  60. This game would be over already if Dwight could hit 65%. And 2 – they badly need Nash back for games like this when they need someone to create easy shots for others in the half court.

    That being said – there is a lot more defensive energy as a team tonight and its what is keeping the lakers in this game during this 4th q. Good to see them gut things out.

  61. Rediculous hero ball by Kobe in final 2 min.

  62. As good as Kobe has been in the first 3 1/2 quarters, he has been that awful in the last 3 possessions. Big time bail out foul call there.

    At least he made the FTs.

    This team is TIGHT in close games, everyone stops playing and just looks for Kobe. Got to trust the offence. If we win this one, hopefully is loosens us up a bit. This game should be in the cooler already.

  63. Uh, do we not know how to call a timeout?! Geez.

  64. Kobe FTs ICICLES.

  65. Staples smells TACOS

  66. Wow – what can you say about Kobes. The catch on that last play, and then the free throw theatrics. Just amazing.

  67. Kobe can get our FT % over 50% for this game by making both here

  68. This team is rejuvenated. The players are enjoying the game again. I can expect good things again.

  69. 19-37 from the foul line, 6-21 from 3, absolutely no production from the bench whatsoever, but we still won without our star point guard. I would say a rather impressive win.

  70. D’antoni’s first game and nobody cracks 100. Now that’s irony. Haha.

    I’ll take the W, but it was ugly. We gutted this one out and frankly, made the Nets look like the Heat when I don’t think they’re that good. I hope this isn’t what we should expect to see when we play games against the non-Detroits of the league. I did like our tenacity on D tonight, though. But please, practice your free throws!!!

    On to Sactown…

  71. Lakers explosive to start games but 22, 21 and 17 pts last 3 fourth quarters. The team is on fumes late in games.

    It’s good to win a tightly contested game like this. Keeps the win streak going.

  72. Funky: Heroic is a good word to describe it : )

  73. You know what? It’s a win against a non-terrible team where the bench didn’t play well, we missed a TON of FTs and we found a way nonetheless. After the way this season started, I’ll take it.

  74. Way sloppy. Something seemed off tonight — often it looked like we were lacking in communication, and I don’t think I need to add to the FT issue harping. Flashes where we looked great, definitely, but we clearly have much to do.

    Great effort by Pau the whole night. Other than the FTs, Dwight was sensational. Kobe continuing his stunning start to the season. Hope Ron can come through for us like this on a consistent basis. Literally praying that Meeks isn’t actually offensive garbage on the Lakers.

  75. Kobe and gasol both travelled a the end – close game for us – shoddy pg play overall – Morris had a tough game against d-will but some calls were ticky tack calls amd he had a 3 on a 3-in the key that didn’t count that would have helped

    Transition defense was really bad and somehow Lopez with his lead feet was able to score at will

    Looking forward to continued growth and hopefully seeing more from Jamison

  76. I think Jodie Meeks is quickly playing himself into D’Antoni’s doghouse now. I am not sure if Brown had a premonition or he is to blame by benching Meeks before there was good reason to, either way he is in a major funk.

    Jamison gets a pass because compared to Meeks he is a boost off the bench.

  77. That was the 1st top team they beat this year and clearly everyone deferred to Kobe at the end.

    Ok with that. Good win. Fire the free throw coach!

  78. I’m glad our new coach’s got at least one thing right: more Kobe + Pau, and Morris (and hopefully later, Nash) + Dwight lineups. That’ll get it done in the long run.

    Complimentary pieces, them. Funny concept that apparently only some NBA coaches can grasp.

  79. I remember reading that one of Dwights biggest problems with Van Gundy was that he wouldn’t feature him in the 4th quarter and crunch time. Really Dwight? I mean you just can’t go 7 for 19 from the line and expect to touch the ball in crunch time. I Feel sorry for Stan.

  80. Now if Kobe could somehow teach Dwight to shoot Free throws.

  81. Also that Hack-a-Dwight nonsense is a ridiculous cop-out. Maybe I’ve got it wrong (so correct me if you think so), but it seems that the Nets are so diffident about their offense that THAT was the best play they could come up with for half a quarter??

  82. This is gonna be the Dwight Howard curse rest of the year – expect to see lots of intentional fouls on him between 8-2 min mark of the 4ths until he starts shooting above 60% (w 2 mins left every intentional turns into 2 shots plus the ball). chuck Person has his work cut out for him turning Dhoward into a decent shooter.

  83. Next time someone says Kobe shoots too much take a look at this line from Jack Taylor of Grinnel College in tonight’s game against Faith Baptist Bible College.

    138 points, 52 of 108 from the field, 27 of 71 from 3-point range and 7-10 FTs

  84. Lakers need to go shopping for a better than mediocre bench player. Please work some magic Mitch.

  85. D’Antoni now with the best percentage winning record in Laker history.

  86. Long Time Laker Fan November 20, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    Sloppy play, a non-existent bench, poor free throw shooting, bad defense in the 1st half: these are the kind of games that we lost under Mike Brown. Tonight we found a way to win, tomorrow we might not be so lucky. The biggest concern has to be the starter’s minutes (39 for Pau, KB, and MWP; 41 for Dwight). The Kings always play us tough, and we struggle in Sleep Train, aka Arco, Arena. Hope we don’t run out of gas before the end tomorrow. But we can enjoy this one for a few hours.

    Oh, and it goes without saying that the defense in the 2nd half won this game. It’s nice to know that this team has the potential to lock down in crunch time.

  87. Hate to be a killjoy but anyone else worried that in MDA’s first game all staters except Morris played 40 minutes? Our bench has major problems right now.

  88. I think that Dwight should have been defending Lopez and Gasol on Humphries. Humphries has no shot outside 10 ft (if that) and Gasol’s only job would be to box out. He would have excelled defending Humphries and Howard would have shut down Lopez as he did on the few plays he guarded him later in the contest. Any idea why this might not be an effective defensive strategy?

    The amount of fuming on the board over a gutty victory stinks of entitlement. The bench produced little and the Lakers had an almost historically poor free throw shooting night. And we won with defense against a very competent offense. All the complainers chimed in that D’Antoni couldn’t coach a defensive team. Well here was a performance better than the last few. The Nets were 41.5% from the floor, 30% on trips. Compare this to their team season average of 45% and 33%. We bothered and contested, and our interior defenders did a great job of altering shots (and four blocks for Dwight!).

  89. I think a call to Rick Barry is in order. He could get a midget to shoot 65%-75% in freethrows. If your bicepts are too big, then try Rick Barry’s method – so what that it doesn’t look manly.

  90. Jamison +/- this year: 0, -21, -2, -7, -13, +15(Warriors), -2, -8, +8(Phoenix), -2, -2. Free Ebanks!

    There’s been 59 times someone has subbed in for the Lakers only 19 times has there been a + outcome. 19/59 is 32%. Twelve of those +’s have come vs Detroit, Phoenix, GS. Take those 12 away it’s 7/59 that’s 11%. Bench sucks.

  91. Last 4 games +/-. When Dwight has been designated to play along side the bench.

    Pau -4, +12, +10, +20

    MWP +6 +6, +13, +7

    Kobe +10, +7, +14 +20

    Dwight -1, -4 -1, -4

    No way Dwight should have – because he plays alongside the starters and theirs are +6 and up mostly. But the few minutes he’s with the bench his +/- plummets. Tells how weak those guys are.

  92. Man, I was waaaayyyyyy off!