Preview and Chat: Lakers vs. Nets

Daniel Rapaport —  February 23, 2014

The Nets will look to snap an 11-game losing streak against the Lakers tonight when the two teams, both performing well-below the levels they expected to before the season started, face off at Staples Center.

The Lakers offense should receive a boost tonight with the return of Swaggy P, who missed five games due to a right knee injury. He won’t start tonight, however, as the ever-rotating D’Antoni wheel of starting lineups churns on. Tonight, Marshall and Meeks will start in the backcourt, with new addition Kent Bazemore starting at the three. Wes Johnson and Gasol round up the starting unit. With MarShon Brooks available off the bench tonight, look for the Lakers to push the tempo early and often.

One person who will not be in the lineup tonight, or any time soon, is Kobe. He visited team physician Dr. Steve Lombardo on Friday, and received less than stellar news: he’ll be out a minimum of three more weeks before being reevaluated. It’s now a legitimate possibility that Kobe will miss the entire season- in three weeks, when he’s due for the next evaluation, there will only be 17 games left. However, like always, he won’t take no for an answer, and recently told the Boston Globe that he’s committed to returning before the season ends.

The Nets have righted the ship a bit after a horrid start, and sit at 25-28, which is good enough to be firmly in the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference. But they’re 2-10 in the second game of back-to-backs and come into tonight fresh off a 93-86 loss at Golden State. It’s no wonder, really, as their roster is filled with stars who are well past their prime (Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Joe Johnson, etc.) That makes today’s game very winnable; the Lakers should be much fresher, and faster than Brooklyn will be.

Keep an eye on the new Lakers tonight. Bazemore and Brooks both enjoyed stellar games by their standards in their first contest under D’Antoni. I’m interested to see if the increase in production and playing time (Brooks averages 6.2 minutes and played 23, while Bazemore averaged 6.7 and played 33) are a sign of what’s to come or just a function of having such few able bodies. If these two young, explosive players prove their worth, they could be one of the few pieces the Lakers will want to keep heading into the summer.

I think the Lakers will win tonight, which may upset those who are fully on board with Team Tank. I always like D’Antoni’s chances against teams that like to play slow and emphasize the half court offense. Whatever the outcome may be, it should be an entertaining game to watch- Paul Pierce should give a little extra at Staples Center, where he has made so many memories.

Where you can watch: TWC Sportsnet, 6 p.m. start time

Daniel Rapaport