LOS ANGELES — The home stand and the reset to their Opening Night starting line-up has rejuvenated the L.A. Lakers a bit. They defeated an excellent Thunder team on Monday and baffled the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday. The Lakers hope to make it three straight wins, which would tie a season-high, which is unimpressive but still a sign that they might turn around an equally unimpressive 2023-24 campaign.
Coming into the former Staples Center venue are the Nets of Brooklyn. They have a 16-24 slate, which is probably better than what most people expected. But they were actually very good earlier in the season before they got into this current tailspin that saw them lose 14 of their last 17 games. And two of those wins were against the wretched Detroit Pistons.
The Nets are led by Mikal Bridges, who is probably miscast as the first option but he’s the best they’ve got. Bridges has played all possible 432 games in his NBA career, which tells us that he’s got a forever Super Mario Starman. He is listed as probable but I don’t think he’ll do his first absence on Friday night. Take that, load management!
Bridges is a great example of a 3-and-D guy and has showed he’s capable of pouring all the points in. He’s exceeded 40 points three times this season, including a 45-point effort against the Hawks on Nov. 22. Mikal is averaging 21.4 points in 2023-24, following a 26.1 point-per-game half-season with the Nets in 2022-23.
They also have another professional scorer on the team. Cam Thomas, dude who scored over 40 points in three straight games last season, is averaging 20.2 per. He may have trouble guarding a chair but the guy can score in bunches.
Cameron Johnson can light it up from behind the arc. The Nets still have veteran Spencer Dinwiddie, who is as crafty as they come and can hit the big shots. They also have defensive-minded wings in Royce O’Neale and Dorian Finney-Smith. And of course, they have energetic big man Nic Claxton, who can block a shot or three.
Lonnie Walker IV ended up signing with the Nets during the offseason so it’ll be cool to see him. We’ll never forget what he did against the Warriors in Game 4 of the conference semis last year.
Oh, I didn’t mention Ben Simmons? Well, he’s been out with a nagging back injury for most of the season as he’s only played 6 games so far. Yikes.
Either way, these guys are desperate for a win. The Lakers should overpower the Nets, whose real advantage is rebounding (3rd most in the league) but we know how they don’t seem to bring the energy at times. We hope they stay wired up like they were the first two games of this home stand. A team that has been getting good and healthy seasons from Anthony Davis and LeBron James shouldn’t be .500 after 42 games but maybe now that these players know their roles, they can consistently put out excellent performances.
So let’s see if L.A. can win their third straight and make the rest of the league a little bit nervous.