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Nets host Lakers in primetime match-up of possible finalists

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Cleveland Cavaliers v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

Moving and grooving. The Brooklyn Nets hosted the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night, and... yeah, man. The Nets look scary as hell and they cooked the Pelicans by 28 points in front of a national TV audience. The win helped them keep up with the Philadelphia 76ers in the chase for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

The opponent tonight will be the Los Angeles Lakers. The champs are battered, but they’re chugging along and hoping for good health as they gear up to defend their title. They’ve been shorthanded for a while and even more so on Thursday night, which led to them taking the loss against the Miami Heat.

Where to follow the game

ABC is the place to be. WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. Primetime affair so the party’s getting started after 8:30 PM. No YES Network, 1 or 2, tonight.

And we’ll be on Clubhouse once again tonight. Join us.

Injuries

James Harden is out. Spencer Dinwiddie is out. Tyler Johnson is out. Landry Shamet is likely back after his balky ankle kept him out the last two games. No word on what the minutes restriction will be on Kevin Durant tonight.

LeBron James is out. Anthony Davis is out. Jared Dudley is out. Kyle Kuzma missed Thursday’s game with a calf injury. No word on his availability for this one.

The game

Brooklyn won the first game in February when L.A. was healthy. They also beat L.A. in the last game before the pandemic a year ago.

As things have gotten back to whatever “normal” is these days, the Lakers have been waiting for fans to be back at Staples Center so they can unveil their 2019-2020 championship banner. The champs will unveil the banner on their regular season home finale on May 12 against the Indiana Pacers. Celebrate the wins you got and hope for even more to come.

Back for the first time. Kevin Durant was gone for a good while and got into some more Twitter beef while he was recovering, but he returned to the court and reminded everyone just who the hell he is. KD played 19 minutes and went a smooth 5-5 from the field and scored an effortless 17 points on Wednesday. He had six turnovers, but it didn’t matter as everything else was picture perfect for Brooklyn. The Nets have been off for the past two days, but I don’t think that will impact how the team handles his minutes distribution.

We’ve got an All Star big man that was benched in favor of a former All Star acquired via the buyout market. On one side, LaMarcus Aldridge will get the start once again as he has taken over for DeAndre Jordan. DJ had his struggles on defense this year, but has maintained a positive energy and has been able to manage the change in role. On the other side, Andre Drummond will start as he’s taken over for Marc Gasol. It’s been a rough transition to the bench for Big Spain, and Frank Vogel has praised Gasol’s professionalism in handling a difficult situation:

“I don’t really see this as a situation where he’s going to fall out of the rotation long-term, and he knows that. Even if there’s nights where he may not play, he’s going to stay ready like he did the other night. He came in, and that’s hard to do is sit over there for three quarters without getting in, and then take your warm-ups off, get loose and go in and play as well as he did. That’s extremely hard to do, and it’s just a credit to his professionalism and what kind of player he is.”

That said, giving him a DNP-coaches decision is backwards as hell.

Speaking of former All Stars, the Blake Griffin “I’m not washed!” tour rolls on. Griffin was pretty excellent on Wednesday and has fully adapted to coming off of the bench. Griffin being the guy to initiate offense on the second unit is another nice wrinkle for the Nets and his passing makes them even more difficult to handle.

IN WNBA news, we’ve got new jerseys! The Los Angeles Sparks and New York Liberty debuted their new jerseys in anticipation of the upcoming season.

The purple Sparks jerseys are BIG FIRE.

Aside from selfish, NetsDaily based reasons, I really do hope we get a Nets v Lakers NBA Finals matchup. For one, I love writing about LeBron James and seeing how he would look to control the flow of the game and bend it to his will would be a fascinating chess match. He’s already cemented his status as one of the three best players to ever play this game and one more amazing playoff run would be another gold star on his resume. Also the Bron v KD matchups have always been fun and another Finals matchup between them with both sides being equally matched is bound to be fascinating for a myriad of reasons.

Through it all, the Lakers defense is still insanely good. They lead the league in defensive rating and have a level of cohesion and commitment that will make them incredibly difficult to beat come playoff time. All they need now is to get healthy.

The Lakers as a team have the worst turnover rate in the NBA this season. Fortunately for them, the Nets have the second worst opponent turnover rate in the NBA this season so it may wind up cancelling out. However, LA can’t afford to be sloppy on offense considering how shorthanded they are. One cold stretch and they may be out of it quicker than they know it.

The Lakers made a play to trade for Kyle Lowry at the deadline, but nothing came of it. The team decided against it and will roll with what they got from here. Talen Horton-Tucker was the sticking point for Lakers management, and you can definitely see the potential the young man has. His minutes tend to fluctuate from night to night, but he’s someone that will be in the Lakers backcourt for years to come.

Player to watch: Dennis Schroder

Tricky thing about being the main shot creator while LeBron is out is you’ve got all the responsibility with none of the help. Dennis Schroder handed out 14 assists against the Heat on Thursday, but had seven turnovers and only went 2-12 from the field in 40 minutes. Like THT, he was floated in the Lowry discussions and just like THT, he’ll be a free agent this offseason. In the meantime, he’ll look to drive to the basket and create clean looks for his teammates. LA is in the bottom third of the league in threes attempted per game, so they’re gonna need to go against type to grab the win.

It’s a good while before it’s award season, but Kyrie Irving figures to get some love. Irving was masterful once again on Wednesday night and only had to play 30:06 to get his 24 points and six assists. He’s someone that can bend even the best defenses so Schroder, Alex Caruso, and the rest of the Lakers guards will have to work extra hard to slow him down. It’s the game of the week and Irving will have one more opportunity to dazzle the fans and keep Brooklyn on top of the East ahead of a crucial stretch of games.

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