Lakers at Nets
The Los Angeles Lakers have developed a habit of jumping out to big leads only to sweat out the final few minutes. They will be looking to keep their defensive intensity up for 48 minutes when they visit the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday. The Lakers have found some success recently with Kobe Bryant entering more of a distribution mode but have been operating against non-playoff teams over the last four contests. That will change with Brooklyn.
The Nets have won two of their last three and are particularly tough at home, where they have taken nine of their last 10. Recently-named All-Star Brook Lopez is shooting 62.2 percent over the last three games and might not have to deal with Lakers All-Star center Dwight Howard, who has missed the last two games with shoulder pain. Howard has reportedly ruled out surgery on his shoulder and will return to the lineup when he is pain-free.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, Time Warner Cable SportsNet (Los Angeles), YES (Brooklyn), NBATV
ABOUT THE LAKERS (22-26): Los Angeles led in the fourth quarter before falling to the Phoenix Suns last week, and let leads of 29 and 18 points get trimmed to one or two possessions in tight wins over the Minnesota Timberwolves and Detroit Pistons. Pau Gasol has picked up his numbers in Howard’s absence with 22.5 points and 11 rebounds in the last two contests. Bryant has failed to reach 20 points in four straight games while shooting 38.7 percent. To make up for the lack of scoring, Bryant has become more of a facilitator for the likes of Gasol, Steve Nash and Metta World Peace. The Lakers are still in 10th place in the Western Conference and will have to visit Boston and Miami before the end of the current seven-game road trip.
ABOUT THE NETS (28-19): Brooklyn has been off since earning a 93-89 win over the Chicago Bulls on Friday and will pay for that break with six games in nine days leading up to the All-Star break. The Nets are hoping some of the momentum from that Bulls game will carry over to Tuesday. The bench was particularly impressive in that victory, scoring the first 20 points of the fourth quarter to put Brooklyn on top. Nets point guard Deron Williams has been dealing with an ankle sprain but expects to play on Tuesday. Williams has struggled to 8-of-21 shooting with nearly as many turnovers (nine) as assists (11) in the last two contests. Joe Johnson has had some trouble finding his stroke as well, shooting 38.1 percent and failing to top 16 points in the last five.
1. The Lakers earned a 95-90 home victory over the Nets on Nov. 20. Bryant led Los Angeles with 25 points while Lopez had 23 for Brooklyn.
2. Gasol is averaging 23.3 points in three games as a starter and 13.1 in seven as a reserve since returning to the lineup on Jan. 17.
3. Williams has averaged 18.8 points and eight assists in 21 career games against the Lakers.
Lakers 95, Nets 93.