The Los Angeles Lakers will be taking on the Brooklyn Nets tonight at the Barclays Center with tip-off scheduled for 7:30pm EST. These two teams met earlier in the season on Christmas Day with Brooklyn taking the game on the road. In what would have been a potential NBA Finals preview if you looked at this game prior to any real games taking place, the two teams couldn’t be farther apart. The Nets find themselves sitting at a record of 29-17, good for third in the Eastern Conference while the Lakers have a record of 23-24 and are much lower than expected in the standings. Due to injuries and COVID procedures, we will once again not see these teams go up against each other at full strength, but the Lakers should be getting a boost with Antony Davis returning to the lineup.
Davis has missed the last month with an injury but was listed as probable coming into the game today so it is likely the All-Star forward will give it a go. For the Nets they will be without stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving for this matchup so at least star power wise, the game may favor Los Angeles. However, the Lakers have been anything but the preseason favorites as they have played very inconsistent basketball amid injuries and drama surrounding the organization. The Lakers are coming off a loss to the Miami Heat in their last outing and are looking to try and make some sort of statement on their road trip while Brooklyn is also coming off a loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves last time out. Prior to the year, many expected these two teams to be playing each other when the NBA Finals tipped off in June but unless a turnaround happens with Los Angeles, this will be the last time these two meet until next season.
How Los Angeles can win: LeBron James has kept this team afloat amid all the issues going on, proving once again that he is still one of the top players in the NBA. He has been on an absolute tear in January as he has averaged 30 points, eight rebounds, and five assists a night on a .502/.304/.722 shooting split. He’s locked in despite the struggles the team is having which allows the Lakers to be a threat every game. Getting Anthony Davis back will likely give this team a boost because it allows them to potentially play LeBron at the power forward position alongside Davis at center, which is a lethal lineup for opposing rosters. Especially if Nic Claxton can’t go for the Nets, the Lakers should look to attack the paint and often with a heavy dose of LeBron and Davis. The Lakers are better with Davis in the lineup as he gives them a lift both offensively and defensively and also takes some pressure off guard Russell Westbrook to feel like he needs to be the second scoring threat.
Westbrook has been surrounded by much scrutiny this season and some of it has been justified but getting Davis back may allow Westbrook to just play his game and not rush shot attempts. If the Lakers are to beat the Nets, they will need a total team effort including their young players such as Malik Monk, Austin Reaves, and Stanley Johnson to step up. If they get quality minutes from players other than James and Davis, the Lakers can win this game today.
How Brooklyn can win: Playing without two of their three-star players is never something that head coach Steve Nash wants to do but this team is capable of winning games. They beat the Lakers in the first matchup with only guard James Harden and can do so again. The Lakers are reeling right now so for the Nets it’s simple, don’t take your foot off the gas if you get a lead. The Lakers have shown the ability to fight back if they go down but when a team is struggling as such, it is on the opposing side to keep them down. If Harden can get to the rim and create open shots for the Nets other players, it could be a long night for Los Angeles. He can’t play passive and must attack when he sees an open lane to the rim.
The offense for Brooklyn hasn’t been the problem as they are scoring 1.12 points per possession and they team ranks in the top five in shooting efficiency. They are shooting 47.4 percent from the field and 82.7 percent from the free throw line. The Nets should be able to take advantage of a Lakers team that ranks towards the bottom in free-throw prevention hence the need for Harden to attack the painted area. The Nets will also need a total team effort to come out with the win here, especially since the Lakers are adding in a massive presence to their lineup in Anthony Davis.
The Spread Via FanDuel:
Moneyline: LAL: (-144) | BKN: (+122)
Spread: LAL: -2.5 (-110) | BKN: +2.5 (-110))
Final Prediction: Los Angeles Lakers 115 Brooklyn Nets 110
–While the Lakers have struggled against the better teams this season, for one of the rare times, they are the healthier squads in the matchup. The addition of Anthony Davis should give this team a lift both on-court and mentally. While it will take all 48 minutes to do so, give me the road team to get a much-needed win.