Travel back with me, just three and a half short years ago. Lakers fans remember fondly the battle in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals that pitted Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol against Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. In one of the Lakers most memorable victories, Los Angeles took home the title and the bragging rights for years to come.
Fast forward to present-day, and tonight’s game is a stark contrast of what used to be. Pierce and Garnett are no longer in Boston, instead donning the black and silver of the New Jersey Nets. They no longer command the same type of attention on the court, looking more like shells of their former selves. The Nets are far from title contenders right now, with a whole host of issues that seem to begin with their head coach, Jason Kidd.
Obviously, everything isn’t the same in Laker land. Only Bryant and Gasol have remained Lakers since that 2010 NBA Finals game. Jordan Farmar rejoined the team this year, but had a multi-year absence from the purple and gold. With Bryant still not back to game shape, only Gasol will be battling in what was, just a few years ago, a high profile matchup against Garnett and Pierce.
In this game, the moveable object is meeting the stoppable force. The Lakers have been putrid on the road this year, winning just one of their six road contests. The Nets have been far from stout on their home court, winning just two and dropping three games. Both teams are coming off a back-to-back. Neither team has been able to sustain success this year (save for a mini-win streak by the Lakers). The Nets have lost their last three home games and are just 1-5 in their last six games.
Tonight may not be very pretty, folks (other than the Lakers Hollywood night jerseys they’ll be debuting).
X-Factor of the Night
Xavier Henry. On the second night of back-to-backs, energy is always hard to find. Often, teams are exhausted and lethargic. With two relatively old squads, the benches will be critical tonight. Henry had a mediocre game last night, scoring 8 points and grabbing four boards. Tonight, he could have a huge impact in the game off the bench, providing big minutes and giving the starters who all played 28 minutes or more last night a needed rest.
Number of the Night
52.9. As in the percentage the Wizards shot from the field last night. More often than not, defense is what’s going to make, and more likely break, this Lakers squad. While the Lakers shots 53% and made 13 threes, they couldn’t get critical stops and, as a result, dropped the game. Tonight, they’ll need to focus even more on the defensive end and even more on late game execution.
This Lakers team has not been good on the road, nor have them been good on the backside of consecutive games. This feels like a game that Brooklyn wins while figuring out their identity. I fear a blowout is plausible tonight. Then again, that usually means I’m dead wrong. Lakers 110, Brooklyn 98.