Opponent: Los Angeles Lakers
Location: Staples Center (Los Angeles)
Time: 10:30 PM EST
Watch: YES Network, Fox Sports GO app
The Nets (17-43) lost their first game of the Sean Marks Era Monday night, a 105-95 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center. After a 33-point third quarter cut the Clippers lead to two heading into the fourth quarter, the Nets were unable to hold off the likes of Chris Paul (23 points, 12 assists) and Jamal Crawford (26 points) despite a worthy effort. The Nets are now 2-2 on the nine-game circus road trip, but they can stay in their hotel another night: they’ll be right back at the Staples Center tonight to face the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers (11-49) are having a rough season and may be the hardest to team to watch in the NBA outside the Philadelphia 76ers. Head Coach Byron Scott’s offense ranks last in the league in field goal percentage at 41.4 percent, and their defense ranks 29th, yielding 47.2 percent from the field. The Lakers don’t move the ball well, shoot the three well, block shots, or create turnovers. And then there’s the great Kobe Bryant, in the last season of his soon-to-be Hall-of-Fame career, and it’s been an ugly one.
Bryant, in 49 games this season, is averaging 17.1 points on a dreadful 35 percent shooting. Oh, and he’s making $25,000,000. It’s debatable if the 18-time All-Star’s presence on the court and locker room is beneficial to the development of the Lakers’ young talents, specifically D’Angelo Russell, but he certainly has felt the love from around the league on each stop of his farewell tour.
On Friday night, Bryant sat out the contest against Memphis while nursing a sore shoulder, and will sit again against the Nets.
In that 112-95 loss to the Grizzlies, Russell played one of his more efficient games this season, scoring 22 points (6-of-9) shooting and attempting a season-high 12 free throws. The second overall pick in last year’s draft, who recently turned 20 last week, has been steadily improving all year.
In February, Russell averaged 15 points and four assists in 29.2 minutes per game. Coach Scott has entered him back into the starting lineup after 31 straight games on the bench, and he’s appeared to respond to the extra playing time. The local media had criticized Scott early in the season for theoretically suppressing his playing time and development but the coach has consistently denied any such agenda
“I don’t think I really loosened it up,” Scott said. “I just think he’s getting more comfortable in his role. I don’t feel I’ve really loosened it that much. I don’t think it’s been that tight in the first place. But I feel that he is getting more comfortable and I think his confidence is growing with some of the things that we’re doing. Like I’ve said, each month he seems to get better and better and I think a lot of that is because of repetition, gaining some experience and then obviously a lot is his confidence in himself. When all of a sudden you start playing a little bit better, you start feeling better about yourself. Like I said, I like where he is right now.”
In their last meeting on November 6th at Barclays Center, the Lakers defeated the Nets for their first win of the season, 104-98. Both teams combined to shoot 10-for-42 (23.8 percent) from three point range and 30 turnovers in front of a jammed Brooklyn crowd (and many Laker fans) looking to get their last glimpse of Kobe in person. Bryant led the Lakers with 18 points on 5-of-16 shooting.