When you’re hot, you’re hot.
In a fourth quarter surge, led by Seth Curry’s 14 points, the Nets opened their four-game road trip with a 110-95 win over the Clippers. It was satisfying on so many levels:
- The Nets held their opponents under 97 points for the fifth straight game, moving them from 29th in defensive rating to first over that stretch;
- Seth Curry is back. He finished with 22 points off the bench, giving him 45 over two games. He’s hit 10-of-19 from deep in his last two games after going 1-of-8 before that;
- The Nets succeeded with Kevin Durant scoring only two points in the fourth quarter.
- Nic Claxton had another great defensive game, grabbing a career-high 14 rebounds to go along with three blocks in helping hold Paul George to a 5-of-21, 1-of-6 from deep. night, including nothing in the fourth.
After a Saturday matinee, Brooklyn is back in action Sunday night at Crypto.com arena vs. the facility’s other tenants, the Los Angeles Lakers. It will be an opportunity to get to .500 for the first time since Game 2. The Nets are now 6-7. For L.A., the season has been an unmitigated disaster. They’re 2-10, with only one team, the rebuilding Rockets behind him in the standings.
Where to follow the game
The game can be seen on YES and the YES App as well as NBA TV for out-of-towners. It can be heard on WFAN as well. Game time is 9:30 p.m. ET.
Seth Curry has been downgraded to questionable. Although he’s played well in the last two games, this is a back-to-back and he’s coming off ankle surgery. Precaution, precaution, precaution.
Otherwise, the injury list remains the same. Kyrie Irving is still suspended with Joe Tsai telling Brian Lewis still has “a lot of work to do” before he can return. Yuta Watanabe is out with an ankle sprain and T.J. Warren has just begun contact drills with the team’s coaching staff.
For the Lakers, it’s increasingly ugly. Thomas Bryant and Dennis Schroeder are out with thumb injuries and LeBron James is doubtful with an adductor (groin) strain. Anthony Davis is probable.
If either Kevin Durant or LeBron James doesn’t play, it will continue what is now close to a four-year stretch without a faceoff between two of the game’s biggest stars. The last time KD and LBJ faced off was Christmas of 2018. James was with Cavaliers, Durant the Warriors.
While the Nets are on a roll, the Lakers are a hot mess. They are racked with injuries and have lost five straight after starting the season with five consecutive defeats. While James continues to put up All-Star numbers at age 37 — 24.9 points, 8.8 rebounds and 6.9 assists — but his durability has finally waned. Russell Westbrook, who is three years younger, is having his worst statistical season ever, averaging 16.5, 5.5 and 6.7. Now coming off the bench, he scored 21 points on Friday night vs. the Kings, BUT he had a technical foul, a turnover and an intentional foul in the second quarter when Sacramento took the lead.
“We know there is a sense of urgency there where we have to get on the right side of these games,” the Lakers rookie head coach Darvin Ham said after L.A.’s latest loss to the Kings on Friday. “... I got to step the hell up. That’s what I plan to do. Me and my staff, everybody in that building, we got to pull together and try to make this thing work.”
Anthony Davis, who’s had his own injury issues (back), also spoke about urgency and also not in a positive way.
“(We) have our moments where our IQ is high and our moments when our IQ was very low — from everyone,” Davis said. “There’s a lot of, like, ‘My bads,’ which is good. But we can’t have a lot of ‘my bads,’ especially during the course of the game. So guys are seeing what we’re doing wrong on film and we talk about it. ‘That’s on me. I got to do it. I got to get this rebound. I got to box out. I got to send him over the screen.’ Whatever. ‘Set a better screen,’ whatever the instance might be.”
For the Nets, one big question is Ben Simmons. Like Westbrook, he is coming off the bench. Jacque Vaughn hopes the lack of pressure will help him get back to where he was before last season’s holdout and back surgery. The 6’11” guard-forward has been basically two steps forward, one step back. The Clippers game was a step back. Simmons only played 14 minutes, took only two shots and finished with only two points. But the Nets can be patient with him and there were bright spots Saturday. He and Seth Curry were working the pick-and-roll well. So it’s wait-and-see.
Player to Watch
One of the few bright spots for L.A. is Lonnie Walker IV, the 23-year-old shooting guard who had 19 points Friday. Walker, who the Lakers signed to a one-year taxpayers MLE deal in July, is averaging 15.7 points in 31.1 minutes on shooting splits of 46/31/79.
Walker like his teammates is frustrated. After the Kings game, he had this to say.
There’s no worse feeling than losing, especially when you put a lot of work and effort into the game,” Walker said. “We just got to continue and to stay the right course, understand this is a long season and just keep fighting. Keep going.”
As our sister site, Silver Screen and Roll noted recently, his attitude has made him a fan favorite.
[T]he real beauty of Lonnie Walker, the Laker, is how much fun he’s having in Los Angeles, and how much the Crypto.com Arena crowd already loves him. All due respect to Matt Ryan, but the Laker with the best highlights this season is Walker. He got his own team so amped with a dunk against New Orleans that the Lakers bench got a technical. For my money, this dunk against the Clippers is probably his highlight of the year; Lonnie Sky Walker is the real deal.
The feeling is mutual.
“There ain’t no energy like here. This is one of one. If you’re not excited, inspired, and motivated to play your best game here, then I don’t know why you’re playing basketball,” Walker said after a recent game.
Indeed, his numbers at home are considerably better than on the road, including a season-high 28 points against the Pelicans 10 days ago. Expect Ben Simmons to put in some time trying to slow Walker.
From the Vault
Is there a choice other than this Christmas present?
For further reading, head to our sister site, Silver Screen and Roll.
- Brooklyn Nets Game Notes - Brooklyn Nets
- Los Angeles Lakers Game Notes - Los Angeles Lakers
- Team-focused Nets face Lakers, seek weekend L.A. sweep - STATS
- Durant, Nets set for matchup with the Lakers - AP
- Suspended Irving won’t return for Nets on Sunday vs Lakers - AP
- Suspended Nets guard Irving to miss sixth straight game, report says - Reuters
- Nets rule Kyrie Irving out vs. Lakers as suspension continues - Ben Krimmel - SNY
- Lakers are 2-10 after fifth loss in a row, but they might not be at rock bottom - Dan Woike - Los Angeles Times