The Nets return to Staples Center to vanquish a 24-hour nightmare

D’Angelo Russell
(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

The Nets return to Staples Center to vanquish a 24-hour nightmare

Opponent: Los Angeles Lakers
Time: 10:30pm EST
Location: Staples Center
Watch: YES Network
Listen: WCBS 880 AM

While back-to-backs are often chalked-up as “scheduling losses” well in advance of the actual games, it isn’t exactly as if the Brooklyn Nets really played a full game last night. After falling behind 35-7 against the Los Angeles Clippers to open their first of two consecutive games at the Staples Center, it was quickly game, set, and match against the NBA’s best basketball team.

In addition to the benefit of playing back-to-back road games in the same building, the Nets will also have Brook Lopez available for their tilt with the Lakers. Kenny Atkinson has kept Brooklyn’s best player on a strict minutes limit this season, even sitting him for the second leg of a back-to-back against the Milwaukee Bucks during the first week of the season. Perhaps sensing that his team stood a better chance versus the lesser of LA’s two franchises, Atkinson wisely kept Lopez out of the last night’s slaughter so that he would be could play the likes of Timofey Mozgov and Julius Randle.

Despite the surprisingly stellar early performances by some of Brooklyn’s rotation players, most notably Sean Kilpatrick and Trevor Booker, the Nets remain a fundamentally different team when Lopez is off the court. If the Nets hope to take a step back towards .500 against a talented, young team like the Lakers, they’ll need a big game out of the crafty veteran once again.

The Lakers are clearly a team on the ascent, currently standing as the Western Conference’s shock team of the season thus far at 6-5. Between D’Angelo Russell, who dropped 39 points on the Nets last March, Jordan Clarkson, and new head coach Luke Walton, they’ve got the purple and gold faithful believing in the future once again, which is where the Nets hope to be someday soon. How they match up against the Lakers will say a lot about how far they’ve come, and how far they have yet to go.

3 Things to Watch for in Nets-Lakers:

1. What kind of start will the Nets get off to?

The Lakers possess many advantages over the visiting Nets, but perhaps none is potentially more lethal than the LA nightlife. Having now spent consecutive days in La-La Land, one wonders whether the Nets will be more stymied by the defense on the court or the distractions out in the hills.

Thankfully, due to Atkinson’s style of coaching, we’re willing to bet that the Nets will come prepared to play after being embarrassed on the same court 24 hours beforehand.

2. How will the young guards match up?

Having largely sidestepped his social media disasters of a season ago, the aforementioned Russell looks to be every bit a star in the making. However, the Lakers’ leading scorer is currently his backcourt mate Lou Williams, who is averaging 16.5 points, 3.7 assists, and 2.0 rebounds per game. With Lin still sidelined thanks to a bum hamstring, the Nets will rely on Yogi Ferrell, a recent D-League call-up, and Isaiah Whitehead, who will return after missing three games with a concussion.

Elsewhere, Kilpatrick will finally have some of the distributing responsibilities off his shoulders, he’ll be free to attack and prove just how how bright his future in the league could be.

3. Cliché Corner

This is really just an excuse to dwell for a moment on a great, perhaps preposterous, NBA talking-head cliché: bouncebackability. The Lakers are coming off a 26-point road loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves in which Andrew Wiggins put up 47, and the Nets lost by 32 to the league’s absolute hottest squad. No matter which team wins tonight, the pundits tomorrow will laud their bouncebackability.

Hopefully, then, the Nets will prove to have more bounce in their ability.