After a wonderful weekend of beating two of the best teams in the NBA, the Lakers are back in action vs. the Nets on Tuesday. The Nets who just mutually agreed Kenny Atkinson into unemployment, the Nets who recently announced Kyrie Irving would miss the rest of the year, the Nets who just put DeAndre Jordan back into the starting lineup at the expense of Jarrett Allen, the Nets who are still going to make the playoffs.
Yes, those Nets.
I’ve no clue how this game will go, honestly. In some ways, the Lakers are due for a letdown. They just beat the Bucks and the Clippers in back to back games. The Nets are a good, but not great team, who have key players out. The game is in Los Angeles. LeBron is expected to play, but is currently listed as questionable with a sore groin. Could I see a banged up LeBron taking this game easy and the Lakers resting their laurels after two big wins? Of course I can. I’ve been a Lakers fan for decades. I know how this goes.
I could also see the Lakers taking this game fairly seriously, continuing to ramp up for the playoffs. The Lakers next set of games after the Nets are all vs. west playoff teams — and good ones too: Houston, Denver, and the Jazz twice. I could imagine the Lakers not wanting to have a letdown before looking to get some revenge on the Rockets and then continue their strong play over the Nuggets/Jazz. Am I sure the Lakers value momentum in this way? Of course not. But, I could totally see them playing with the needed energy and focus to dispatch the Nets.
So, that’s really the story of this game: how seriously will the Lakers take it? The Nets are good enough to win if the answer to that question is “not very much”. Spencer Dinwiddie can score, man. Caris Levert can, too. With Joe Harris bombing 3’s, Allen defending the rim, and DeAndre controlling the defensive glass, this team has some talent. The Lakers can play poorly and still win, but they can’t if they don’t bring enough effort attentiveness for a long enough stretch.
That is all I’m really looking for, then. I won’t bore you with P&R coverages vs. Dinwiddie and Levert. I won’t preach about ways the Lakers can feature AD or how this could be a game where Kuzma and Morris get good looks from deep. Because, the marker for me this game is how long do the Lakers play hard and for what portions of the game.
Come out strong and play hard for 30 minutes (or so) to begin the game and Bron/AD could end up getting significant rest late. Don’t, and….well, we’ve seen that movie before and it ends up with the Lakers having to push hard in the final 6 minutes to secure a win that may or may not come. The choice is theirs.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on Spectrum SportsNet.