The Brooklyn Nets are gearing up to host the Los Angeles Lakers in a matchup that features two of the most intriguing teams in the NBA.
These coastal programs last met in late November, with the Lakers edging the Nets 95-90 in a close contest. This upcoming game will be their second and final meeting of the 2012-13 campaign.
It’s an important game for both squads, as the playoffs are coming up soon and wins are at a premium in the second half of the season.
Let’s take a look at where you can watch this matchup, some key storylines surrounding the game, players to keep an eye on, a prediction on the final score and more.
Start Time: Tuesday, February 5 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York
TV Info: NBATV
Live Stream: NBA League Pass (Paid subscription required)
Injury Report (via ESPN)
C Dwight Howard, Shoulder, Day-to-Day
No major injuries to report.
Key Storyline: Will Lakers Collapse in Second Half?
The 2012-13 Lakers have plenty of issues, but the most concerning may be their inability to hold a lead late in the game.
On Sunday afternoon, against a mediocre Detroit Pistons squad, the Lake Show squandered an 18-point lead and needed a bit of luck (a no-call on a potential foul that would have sent Andre Drummond to the line with 1.2 seconds left) in the fourth quarter to pull out the win.
It was the second time in the last week that L.A. fell apart down the stretch, notably losing to the Phoenix Suns this past Wednesday after scoring a mere 13 points in the final period.
Coach Mike D’Antoni needs to figure out how to keep his players engaged and playing at a high level for all 48 minutes of the game—not just the first 36.
Veteran players like Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant have been here before and have to realize that failing to put points on the board and playing poor defense in the final minutes of close games is a surefire way to lose.
If nothing changes on that front for L.A., and Brooklyn can keep things close in the first half, we expect the Nets will be hanging around in the second and be in position to make a run by the fourth.
Key Matchup: Dwight Howard vs. Brook Lopez
*Howard is currently listed as Day-to-Day and isn’t 100 percent to play in this contest as of Monday morning.
These two big men have been intertwined ever since last year, when Howard was a member of the Magic and Lopez was playing out the final year of his contract with the New Jersey Nets.
There were a number of rumors about potential trades with Howard and Lopez as the two main pieces. That hasn’t changed with the 2013 trading deadline—which is Feb. 21—rapidly approaching.
As recently as two weeks ago, there were reports surfacing that Nets GM Billy King was exploring potential deals to bring D12 to Brooklyn. These included a hypothetical three-team swap that would have sent Lopez to the Minnesota Timberwolves, Kevin Love to L.A. and Howard to the Big Apple.
They are probably both sick of hearing about these rumors, and you can expect that each player will have a chip on their shoulder going into this one—trying to prove to their franchise that they are the better player and should not be dealt.
It seems Lopez has taken a step forward in 2012-13, averaging 18.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game, while Howard isn’t contributing at his normal level and is putting up just 16.5 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks.
If Howard is out there on Tuesday night, we expect this battle of prominent big men will be settled on the court.
Predicted Starting Lineups and Key Reserves
Lakers Starting Lineup
G Steve Nash
G Kobe Bryant
F Metta World Peace
F Earl Clark
C Dwight Howard
F Pau Gasol
F Antawn Jamison
G Steve Blake
G Jodie Meeks
Nets Starting Lineup
G Deron Williams
G Joe Johnson
F Gerald Wallace
F Reggie Evans
C Brook Lopez
F Kris Humphries
F Andray Blatche
G MarShon Brooks
G Keith Bogans
G C.J. Watson
This is going to be a close matchup no matter how you cut it.
With so many star players on both sides and so much on the line—neither team is a lock to make the postseason (although Brooklyn has a much better chance compared to Los Angeles)—we’re bound to be treated to a competitive game.
Which team will win?
If Howard is healthy, it’s going to be an exciting contest that will play from the inside out, with D12 and Lopez going back and forth at one another.
There is also a chance that guard play becomes dominant, with D-Will and Joe Johnson going at Nash and Kobe in a showdown between two of the best backcourts in the NBA.
However, the Nets are playing well under P.J. Carlesimo and have shown a propensity to close games out—a trait that the Lakers have yet to find within themselves.
Due to this, we expect Brooklyn to make a late run and pull away with a narrow victory against a team travelling thousands of miles to play on Tuesday night.
Brooklyn Nets 102 – Lakers 98