Nets begin “second half” in Los Angeles against woeful Lakers

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It has been ten days since the Brooklyn Nets (21-31) last played, a 95-86 loss in Memphis at the hand of the Grizzlies, their third straight defeat. In the interim, fans have watched Mason Plumlee partake (lose) in the Slam Dunk Contest on All-Star weekend, and bid farewell to Kevin Garnett, as he makes his way back to Minnesota after Thursday’s deadline trade for Thaddeus Young. Though more changes appeared imminent before yesterday’s deadline, the Nets will move forward with their playoff push as they embark on a five-game road trip, starting tonight in Los Angeles.

The Nets begin the day just a game behind the Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat for the last two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. With 17 of their final 30 games against winning teams, tonight’s matchup against the bottom-dwelling Lakers (13-40) measures up as a game the Nets must tack on in the win column. Head coach Byron Scott’s Lakers have lost six straight games and 15 of their last 16 by an average of 10.7 points as they continue to wallow in last place in the Pacific Division. It’s been one of the dreariest seasons for Lakers fans yet, and the writing was on the wall once Kobe Bryant was declared out for the season last month with a torn rotator cuff.

Of course, Bryant’s injury was just the tipping point. The season started with Steve Nash suffering a season-ending back injury in preseason, and rookie Julius Randle breaking his leg in his very first game. It has been a daunting task for Coach Scott sifting through the low points while shuffling nine different starting lineups with 12 different players thus far. Forward Jordan Hill, the only Lakers player to start the first 48 games, missed the last five games with a strained right quad, but should be back in the lineup tonight after practicing yesterday.

Ronnie Price, who had supplanted Jeremy Lin as the team’s starting point guard, has missed the last eight games with an elbow injury and his status for tonight is unclear. Wayne Ellington and Jordan Clarkson, recent mainstays in the starting lineup, have picked up the scoring slack in the last eight games averaging 16.6 and 14.4 points per game, respectively.

The Nets could be without Jarrett Jack tonight as he continues to recover from the hamstring injury suffered during the last game against Memphis, which kept him out of the NBA Skills Challenge last weekend. With or without Jack, the Nets could take minimal solace in the Lakers team defense, one of the worst in the NBA. Entering tonight’s game, the Lakers rank last in points allowed per game (106.2), second-worst in points allowed per 100 possessions (108.4), and second-worst in field goal percentage allowed (46.8 percent).

Tip-off is at 10:30 PM E.S.T. at Staples Center in Los Angeles.