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Nets face reeling Lakers at Barclays

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Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Sad for us. The Nets put up a fight against the NBA’s hottest team, led by Jeremy Lin in his first game back, but lost in the last minute to Houston, 122-118. Lin scored 10 points, distributed seven assists and played good defense for 20 minutes in his first game in 40 days.

The game had other positives as well, at least on the offensive end. The Nets scored 75 points in the second half, 42 in the third, 33 in the fourth. Brook Lopez scored 26 points (but grabbed only one rebound), part of a 68-36 advantage over Houston. The Rockets could have used Donatas Motiejunas.

And Caris LeVert keeps progressing. In his 15 minutes on the court, he scored seven points, going 2-of-5 overall, 2-of-4 from three. It’s only a matter of time before the 6’7” swingman breaks out.

Defense, of course, is another story. When you give up 122 points after you give 130 two nights before, it’s not a good thing. In fact, it’s a continuing, even worsening, problem.

Still, the Nets didn’t wave the white flag after being 15 down and kept fighting right until the end ... against the hottest team in the NBA on their homecourt. Better days lie ahead.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. Tip off after 7:30 ET.

Injuries

Drumroll, please: for the first time all season, all 15 Nets should be healthy. They almost made it in Houston, but Jordan Hamilton came down with a migraine. He’s probable vs. L.A. Chris McCullough is still assigned to the Long Island Nets where he’s averaging close to 20 points and nine rebounds.

For the Lakers, Tarik Black is out with a sprained right ankle and Jose Calderon is out with a hamstring sprain. We know how unpredictable they can be. Two of the young Lakers, D’Angelo Russell (knee) and Julius Randle (hip pointer) are probable.

The game

From facing to the hottest team (seven straight wins) in Houston to facing the coldest team (seven straight losses) in Los Angeles at Barclays Center ... in two days.

It could be a challenge. The young Lakers are hungry for a win and they beat the Nets back in November, 125-118. It was one of those games where the Nets were without a starting point guard. Jeremy Lin and Greivis Vasquez were down and Sean Kilpatrck started Isaiah Whitehead and Yogi Ferrell got some minutes. Brook Lopez and Bojan Bogdanovic carried the team with 30 and 29 points.

The Nets will have Lin and likely for more minutes than they did in his debut on Wednesday. It will also be only his fourth game before a home crowd.

Lin talked about what he learned while sitting on the bench, watching rather than playing.

“Watching the team for five weeks, I’ve narrowed down what I need to do,’’ Lin said Tuesday. “I just need to get us organized on both ends of the floor, and I need us to be solid defensively and get great shots on the offensive end.

“That sounds so simple, but mixing up play-calls and understanding different lineups, where guys need the ball and making sure that happens at the right time, that’s just part of being a point guard. I’m not trying to be flashy or take over the game. That will come naturally if I’m hot one night, or they’re giving me a certain thing that night. It’ll happen. But I don’t need to go and seek it.”

He’ll be facing D’Angelo Russell who is getting a reputation as a Nets-Killer. Russell has had his two best games against Brooklyn, 39 points last season in Brooklyn and 32 points in November at the Staples Center. This is his third game back since missing 11 games with a sore knee.

The Lakers also have a supporting cast of other hyperathletic youngsters: Julius Randle, who had his first triple double against the Nets; Larry Nance Jr; Jordan Clarkson and two rookies, Ivica Zubac and Brandon Ingram.

So what’s the problem with the Lake Show? Defense is one. Youth is another. After the Kings loss this week, Luke Walton said they just gave up. That’s a symptom of youth.

Player to watch: Lou Williams

The big story in the Lakers backcourt is Lou Williams. Sweet Lou is the likely Sixth Man of the Year. He’s the leading score this season for L.A., at 19.3 ppg and even more productive of late. Williams scored 137 points off the bench over a four-game stretch (34.3 points) from December 3 through December 9. That’s the most points scored by a reserve over a four-game stretch in NBA history since at least 1970-71 when the league began to track starters.

In that sketch, Williams scored 40 points vs. Memphis and 38 vs. Utah. The last time a Laker scored 38+ in consecutive games was in 2013, when Kobe Bryant did it. As a result, the Lakers bench is first in the NBA in scoring.

From the Vault

It was 25 years ago next month that Drazen Petrovic played his first game for the Nets. Ironically, it came against Vlade Divac, his teammate on the Yugoslavian national team, and the Lakers.

After averaging 4.4 points a game in Portland, Petro scored 14 in the Nets 108-103 overtime thriller. Here’s some highlights of Petrovic vs. Divac.

More reading at Silver Screen and Roll.