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Only LeBron and Lakers stand in way of Nets biggest win in years

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Los Angeles Lakers v Washington Wizards Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Five wins in a row constitutes a legitimate streak, and the Nets hit that mark as they cruised to a lopsided victory against the Hawks, scoring a Barclays Center record 144 points and ran Atlanta off the court.

It’s rare we get to see actual garbage time minutes for this Nets team considering how many close games they play, but I’m not complaining. Kenneth Faried on the court means there’s a blowout, and this one swung Brooklyn’s way.

LeBron James and the Lakers are next, the first time the Nets will see Lebron on his new team. They lost to the Wizards on Sunday, but sit fourth in a loaded Western Conference. They’re young, fast, and dangerous which is something that cannot have been said about almost all of LeBron’s previous teams. Let’s get into it.

Where To Follow The Game

YES, WFAN, and NBA TV have this one at 7:30 pm, ET. It’s another City Edition game too.

Injuries

Treveon Graham (hamstring) is getting closer to coming back while Caris Levert (foot) was spotted on the sidelines in the win against the Hawks which I think is a good thing. It can’t be a bad thing right? I think it’s a good thing. Dzazan Musa partially separated his left shoulder in Sunday’s G League game. No word on how long he’ll be out.

Michael Beasley (personal) Brandon Ingram (ankle) and JaVale McGee (illness) all missed Sunday’s game while Rondo has been out with a hand injury.

The Game

Any conversations about the Lakers for the foreseeable future begins and ends with LeBron, as it has with any team he’s ever been a part of. The GOAT seems locked in earlier than usual this season, and it’s definitely possible his new, younger team has reinvigorated regular season enthusiasm. At 34 years old, he’s once again averaging his career line of 27, 7 and 7, while playing solid defense and getting generous Superstar Help from the refs with only 1.6 personal fouls per game, his lowest number since his last season in Miami.

The Lakers, somewhat surprisingly, have been a little better at defense than they have been on offense, although they’re quite good at both, ranking 11th in the league in Defensive Rating and 15th in Offensive Rating. Their young guys like Josh Hart, Lonzo Ball, and Kyle Kuzma have the speed and stamina to run around picks and the team is anchored by a rejuvenated Tyson Chandler down low.

They will be tested physically since this is the Lakers third game in four nights. They beat Charlotte by 28 on Saturday, then lost to the 76ers by 18 on Sunday.

The pick-and-roll game was really working for Brooklyn on Sunday and no one benefited more than D’Angelo Russell, who scored 32 points on 68% shooting from the field. He also dished out seven assists with no turnovers and was engaged on both ends of the floor all night. Joe Harris was also dangerous running off of screens and hitting jumpers which makes him way more dangerous than a pure catch-and-shoot guy because in the second half he dribbled off of some screens and got enough defensive attention to make a smart pass out for an assist, of which he had six. That’s where him and a guy like Allen Crabbe differ; Harris is multi-dimensional while Crabbe, even at his best, is just kind of a one trick pony.

The Nets are second in the league in drives per game and fifth in the league in bench scoring, both stats significantly propped up by Spencer Dinwiddie. It’ll be interesting to see how the Nets fare against a team that, believe it or not, is similar to them in composition. Obviously the Nets don’t have a LeBron, but they do have a lot of springy, energetic guards and wings who run around a tall, lanky, athletic center. Plus LeBron can’t play the whole game, even if he is still averaging almost 35 minutes a night.

DLo only played his former team once last season and it was largely a disapointment. He scored 17 points but shot 33% from the floor and 1-of-8 from three to go along with four turnovers. It won’t take much to best that performance, but it’s also important for Russell not to push too hard and let the offense come to him. Plus, some more smart and aggressive defense wouldn’t hurt. He had two steals and just two fouls against the Hawks.

Kyle Kuzma might be a bit of a problem for the Nets due to his combination of size, skill, and mobility. He isn’t great on defense, despite having all the tools one could ever want for success on that end of the floor, but he is the Lakers second leading scorer at 18.1 points per game. Especially with Brandon Ingram disappointing, he’s their true second option. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will likely draw most of that assignment. He’s kind of like the opposite of Kuzma. A little undersized for the 4, not very skilled, but he plays hard and knows where he should be most of the time. He makes himself into an impact player, rather than relying on natural talent.

Last note: Rodions Kurucs, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Jarrett Allen, Joe Harris, D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, Demarre Carroll, and Jared Dudley all scored in the double digits on Sunday. That’s just a whole lot of fun.

The Streak

IF THE NETS WIN

—It would extend Brooklyn’s season-best winning streak to six games. The Nets are in the midst of their longest winning streak since the 2014-15 season (six straight victories from March 25 to April 3, 2015).

—It would snap Brooklyn’s eight-game losing skid vs. Western Conference teams (last win: November 9 at Denver).

—It would extend the Nets’ season-best home winning streak to four games (the last time the Nets won four straight home games within a single season came in the 2015-16 season: November 17 to December 1, 2015).

Player To Watch

Lonzo Ball is really still trying to figure it all out. There are nights where he looks great and a lot of others where he just can’t hit anything. He’s shooting 39 percent from the field and 30 percent from deep. Those are Brandon Jennings-type numbers. At the same time, he’s still big and talented and switchy on defense, a solid rebounder and even better passer. He can be a positive in the games he doesn’t shoot well, but he’s so much more effective if he’s scoring and demands some defensive attention farther away from the basket.

From The Vault

Hopefully we see this version of D’Lo in this one.

Enjoy.

For a different perspective, head on over to Silver Screen-and-Roll, our Lakers sisters site on SB Nation.