Lakers look to bounce back against Brooklyn Nets

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The Nets embarrassed the Lakers in Los Angeles on Jan. 19, 130-112.

BROOKLYN, NY — The 41-33 Los Angeles Lakers had their 5-game winning streak snapped at the hands of the Indiana Pacers. L.A. looked ragged for most of the game. They couldn’t make three-pointers, made some terrible decisions, and looked fried both physically and mentally.

Well, they had the day off after that and on Sunday afternoon (at least, in the West Coast), they will be back at it against a team that pretty much humiliated them two months ago in Los Angeles, the Brooklyn Nets.

The Nets are 29-45 and still alive for a play-in spot (even though it looks pretty bleak as they are 5 games behind for the 10th spot with 8 games left). They have won three games in a row, though, so they’re looking a little hot right now.

The Brooklyn Nets from Jan. 19th were a bit different. Since then, Kevin Ollie has replaced Jacque Vaughn as coach, Royce O’Neale was dealt to Phoenix, and Spencer Dinwiddie was traded to Toronto for ex-Laker Dennis Schröder. Funny enough, Dinwiddie would be waived by the Raptors and end up with the Lakers.

Anyway, in the Lakers’ game against the Nets in that aforementioned January night, they lost by 18 points as the Nets took over the second half with timely three-point shooting (19 threes by the Nets in that game) and energized defense. The Lakers looked awful with their sloppy play and body language. One could argue that it might have been the most disappointing loss of the season. Now the Lakers look to get that win back.

It would be great if they could stop Cam Thomas, who put in 33 points against them in that first game. Nic Claxton was dominant inside, scoring 22 points and grabbing 14 boards. Remember that he’s also quite the rim protector, averaging 2.0 blocks per contest (good for 8th in the league). The Nets also have ironman Mikal Bridges, 3-and-D specialist Dorian Finney-Smith, and another former Laker in the explosive Lonnie Walker IV. Cam Johnson was upgraded to questionable and he’s another deadly shooter from afar. And they’re not going to stop shooting those threes; they made 25 in their win against Chicago on Friday (18 for 24 in the second half!).

On paper, the Lakers are more talented top-to-bottom. But that didn’t seem to matter two months ago, did it? If the Lakers actually use that talent and chemistry against the Nets and take them seriously, I don’t see how they can’t win this one. Especially these days since most of us seem to agree that, despite their loss to Indiana, they seem to be peaking at the right time.

LeBron James seems to have a pep in his step, even nearing 40 years old. Anthony Davis continues to be dominant defensively. Austin Reaves is so good with his clever playmaking and his bursts to the rim. When D’Angelo Russell catches fire, it’s hard to put him out. And Rui Hachimura is capable of putting up 25-30 points on any given night.

The Lakers might get some help from the backcourt as Gabe Vincent has been upgraded to questionable. Gabe has only played 5 games this season and he was counted on to be a defensive menace on the perimeter and a primary/secondary ballhandler. Hopefully, he can go on Sunday.

It goes without saying that the Lakers could hardly afford a loss here. The Warriors continue to be hot on their trail as they have won three games in a row. The even-hotter Houston Rockets have been glaringly formidable; they’ve won their last 11 games!

So the Lakers have to do their part and win this one against the Nets. A defeat here would give them the same number of losses as the Warriors and I’m pretty sure the Lakers don’t want that this late in the game.