Brooklyn takes L.A.: Russell’s return and Lopez’s new home

Photo courtesy YES Network

Time: 10:30 p.m. EST

Location: Staples Center

Watch: YES Network, FOX Sports GO

Listen: WFAN 101.9, 660 AM

Photo courtesy YES Network

Tonight, the now 3-5 Brooklyn Nets kick off a five-game west coast road trip against the Los Angeles Lakers, who are on the second night of a back-to-back after a heartbreaking loss on a Damian Lillard dagger.

This will be Brooklyn’s first look at Lonzo Ball, along with new Laker and Nets franchise leading scorer Brook Lopez. Maybe more importantly, this will be D’Angelo Russell’s first game back in L.A. with an opportunity to show Magic Johnson what he was so eager to ship out of town for.

The Nets are on a three-game skid after a hard-fought victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Oct. 25. Since then, the team has seemingly slipped into old Nets habits and played disjointed and inconsistent basketball.

Defense continues to be an issue for the Nets primarily, as they allow opponents to shoot 52.6 percent in effective field goal percentage, ranking them at No. 24 in the league in that category.

If anything can be taken away from how the 2017-18 NBA season has started, it is that no team should be underestimated, and the Lakers have shown signs of being competitive despite a 2-3 record at home.

Being the start of a road trip (and given the Nets are yet to win away from Barclays this year), it is important for the Nets to end that losing streak. Being a young team, sometimes squads with new leaders get bogged down in a losing streak. Without the relief of home cooking until Nov. 14, kicking off the road trip with a win would be worth a lot to the team’s collective mindset.

This game has a lot of underlying meaning to it, given the team’s positions as repeat lottery teams with young rosters, but also because of the aforementioned off-season trade. It is still difficult to see Lopez in the purple and gold, and despite a strong first two games for the Wookie, he was only able to reach double-digit scoring numbers in one of his next five games before erupting for a season-high 27 last night.

Lopez’s defense has been long criticized, and now the Nets can possibly see that firsthand. Timofey Mozgov revenge game, anyone?

Three Things To Watch

1) D’Angelo Russell Vs Lonzo Ball

This match-up is the most intriguing part of this game, at least from an impartial viewer. Russell has started the season in great fashion, despite what could be called an underwhelming 30-point effort against Phoenix.

It will be interesting to see what kind of reception the Lakers fans give Russell as he re-enters Staples Center for the first time, and what will be even more interesting will be how he handles it. Despite what he has said heading into the game, it is likely he has had the game circled on his calendar. He may desperately want to show Lakers fans what time it is.

2) Spencer Dinwiddie

Dinwiddie did all he could in trying to get the Nets the win on Tuesday, anchoring a bench attack that clawed its way back into the game in the third quarter with a 17-0 run. He is gaining more of Kenny Atkinson’s trust as the season continues, unsurprisingly, given his terrific assist to turnover ratio and shot making.

While the starters will be trusted to do the heavy lifting when required (as they should), it will be interesting if the coaching staff go with Dinwiddie more, potentially sharing ball-handling duties with D-Loading. If he can continue to put his best foot forward, it is hard to see why not to, as the Nets have increasingly been better with him on the floor. According to, Dinwiddie features in seven of eight of the Nets best four-man combinations for the season in outscoring opposing teams.

3) Allen Crabbe

The highest paid Nets player started off his stint in Brooklyn well, but has struggled to make an impact across the past week. One of the largest barometers of the Nets offense, Crabbe has only connected on three of 12 shots from behind the arc over the last three games, and outside of his shooting, he has been widely unable to impact the game.

With the team just eight games deep, it is far from panic stages, but Allen needs to find ways to work himself into games when his shot is not falling – and this does not mean forcing the issue early in shot clock situations, which was seen multiple times against the Suns.  

Again, it’s a small sample size, but Crabbe has started the season averaging 16.0 points per game in wins, and 6.2 in losses. Time will tell if he bounces back today.