The Los Angeles Lakers finally have an opportunity to get above .500.
Now, who would have thought we'd be saying that 10 games into the season?
With a roster like Los Angeles' not many. But after fighting a losing battle with the Princeton offense, that's where the Lakers are.
Though the Mike D'Antoni-led (sort of) Lakers have won four of their last five, their quest to rise above .500 will not be easy, as they must go through the Brooklyn Nets to do it.
Deron Williams and company have not been the pillar of consistency thus far this season, but they have won five in a row and will be looking to make it six as they head into Tinseltown Tuesday night.
Time: Tuesday, November 20, 10:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBA TV
Records: Brooklyn Nets (6-2), Los Angeles Lakers (5-5)
Betting Line: Lakers -5.5
Injuries (via CBSSports.com)
Lakers: Steve Blake (abdomen), questionable; Steve Nash (leg), out.
Key Storyline: Are the Lakers ready to assert their dominance as a powerhouse?
After losing four of their first five games, the Lakers have won four of their last five. While that has put them in position to emerge above .500 for the first time all season, they have yet to defeat a team with a winning record.
Obviously, this isn't the same offense—or the same team, for that matter—we saw almost implode under Mike Brown. That said, they're going up against a Brooklyn team that has rattled off five straight wins and has a wealth of momentum under its belt.
Normally, such a matchup wouldn't phase the Lakers, but again, they're still attempting to establish their footing as a league powerhouse.
And while there would be no better way to do so than by beating one of the hottest teams in the league, a third straight victory for Los Angeles is anything but guaranteed.
Key Matchup: Joe Johnson, SG, Nets vs. Kobe Bryant, SG, Lakers
Joe Johnson has struggled offensively thus far, averaging just 15.3 points on 36 percent shooting from the field. His cause won't be helped going up against one of the greatest two-way guards in the game.
For Johnson to have a chance at successfully battling Bryant, he is going to need to calibrate his offensive scope early on.
Dribbling too much isn't going to help him here. He needs to make quick and smart decisions with the ball, and needs to do so in the midst of defending the league's leading scorer, if the Nets don't opt to put Gerald Wallace on him first.
Either way, Bryant isn't about to come into this matchup fearing anything.
Kobe is the superior player on both ends of the ball, and is having a career year in terms of efficiency and arguably overall importance as well.
The Black Mamba has had success scoring the ball from anywhere on the floor—40.5 percent from beyond the arc this season—and has really stepped up his distributional responsibilities in the wake of Blake and Nash's injuries.
In other words, Johnson is going to have his hands full.
Deron Williams, PG, Nets
Williams will most likely have the pleasure of going up against an inexperienced Darius Morris when this one tips off.
Though Brooklyn's floor general has continued to struggle to establish consistent dominance, his ability to put points on the board, create open looks for his teammates and lock down the perimeter on defense is not to be discounted.
With Johnson being forced to—and most likely falling victim to—the stylings of Bryant, the Nets need Williams to have a big game just to keep this one close.
And though he will have the clear positional edge, with players like Metta World Peace and Kobe himself to help out Morris defensively, his success is anything but a certainty.
Darius Morris, PG, Lakers
Whether or not Blake is ready to go for this one is irrelevant, Morris will continue to be used more than sparingly.
However, should the sophomore point guard wind up starting once again, he is going to have his hands full going up against Williams.
In Los Angeles' most recent victory over the Houston Rockets, Morris began to find his touch on offense. He scored 12 points to go along with his five assists and played more than adequate defense on the perimeter.
But going up against a combination of Jeremy Lin and Toney Douglas is much different than waging battle against one of the best point men in the league in Williams. He will hound Morris on both ends of the floor; he will be relentless in his quest to lead the Nets to a sixth straight victory.
Subsequently, Morris' ability to feign two-way competence by containing Williams and remaining composed on offense will have a huge impact on the outcome of this game.
Brook Lopez, C, Nets
Once again ignoring my affinity for not using two starters from the same team as x-factors, I give you Lopez.
The budding big man is having an impressive season offensively, dropping 17.8 points per game on 53.8 percent shooting from the floor. He's even improved his rebounding as well, grabbing 6.4 a night.
Lopez's defense remains spotty and unaggressive, though, which isn't going to cut it as he prepares to wage battle against Dwight Howard.
Not only that, but Lopez's points and rebounds aren't going to come as easy going up against Iron Man either. He is going to need to become more of an aggressive force on both ends of the floor to have an outside shot at competency in this one.
I'm talking like lead the NBA with four blocks like he did Sunday night type of game.
Should he be able to do that, then maybe, just maybe, Brooklyn extends its winning streak to six games.
Antawn Jamsion, PF, Lakers
I've said it before and I'll say it again, the success of Los Angeles' bench begins and ends with Jamison.
Brooklyn's bench is dropping 33.5 points per contest to the Purple and Gold's 21.1. As talented as the Lakers' starting five is, such a total will prove unacceptable against the Nets.
While we know what a potent force Jamison can be, he has yet to score in double-figures this season, a tell-tale sign of how shallow a bench Los Angeles truly boasts.
For the Lakers to come away with the victory at home and propel themselves above .500 for the first time all season, they need Jamison to step up here.
Prediction: Lakers 117, Nets 111
This one is going to be fun.
Not only are the Nets riding a lengthy winning streak, but the Lakers are looking to put their abysmal start even further behind them with a victory here.
Despite Brooklyn being seemingly overmatched at every position except point guard, expect it to keep this one close, even though it's at the Staples Center. The Nets bench has the clear edge, so that alone will be enough to keep them within striking distance for the duration of the contest.
Don't expect Los Angeles to lose with so much on the line, however. Kobe is going to kick it into high gear like he did Sunday against the Rockets, and Howard should be able to have his way with Lopez in the post. Even Pau Gasol has the edge going up against Kris Humphries in this one.
Unfortunately, it's going to take some heavy minutes from the starters to pull their third straight victory out. The Lakers' bench attack has been laughable thus far, and they cannot chance another experience below .500 by conserving the minutes of their most talented players.
Yes, both teams have plenty going for them in this one, but for the Lakers, this one means more.
And they're going to play—and subsequently win—like it.
All stats in this article accurate of 11/19/12.