The Lakers (23-27) head to Brooklyn to play the Nets (30-19) for second and final time this season. The game tips at 4:30 p.m. PT on Spectrum SportsNet, NBA TV and 710 ESPN radio.
Below are three things to know ahead of the matchup:
DEPLETED ROSTERS AND MISSING STARS
After playing heavy minutes in Saturday's frustrating loss to the Celtics, both LeBron James (left ankle soreness) and Anthony Davis (right foot stress injury) will sit out against the Nets.
With the Lakers playing on the front end of a back-to-back, there is potential both could be available vs. the Knicks on Tuesday, but that is not a given and we will need to wait for further updates to see how both progress. Austin Reaves (left hamstring strain) is also out and will be reevaluated on Thursday.
On Brooklyn's side, Kevin Durant remains out with the right knee injury he suffered vs. the Heat (1/8) while Ben Simmons is questionable to play with his own knee issue that kept him out of Brooklyn's win over the Knicks on Saturday. Should Simmons not play, an even greater ask will be placed on the Nets' remaining star, Kyrie Irving, to step up and carry the load for his team.
With neither LeBron nor Durant slated to play, and it being the last regular season meeting between the Lakers and Nets, the streak of the superstar forwards not facing off against each other in either a regular season or playoff game is extended to 49 months. You have to go all the way back to Christmas Day 2018 when Durant was still on the Warriors and to LeBron's 1st season with the Lakers for the last time these two titans went toe-to-toe.
Somewhat lost in the controversy of how the Celtics game ended, the much-awaited return and reintegration of AD, and Rui Hachimura's continued adjustment to his new team, Lonnie Walker made his return to the lineup for the first time in 14 games on Saturday.
Walker looked very much like his old self offensively, scoring 13 points on 6-8 shooting from the field to go along with three rebounds and an assist in 18 minutes. He connected on his open spot-up jumpers, got out in transition for a big dunk, and generally moved around the floor well, showing no lingering effects of the knee tendonitis that kept him sidelined.
Walker's return couldn't come at a better time as the team prepares for its push into the All-Star break while simultaneously exploring new lineup options and potential rotation configurations that account for Hachimura's addition and the players returning from injury.
NETS TRYING TO STAY AFLOAT
When Kevin Durant went down with his knee injury, it was clear the Nets would face challenges to keep their momentum going. Brooklyn had turned their season around in recent weeks, surging to the upper tier of the conference after only losing three games between Thanksgiving on that January 8th game vs. Miami where Jimmy Butler fell into Durant's knee.
Since that night, however, the Nets are 3-6 in their last nine games and are in the bottom half of the league in both offensive and defensive rating in that stretch.
On an individual level, Irving is putting up some of his best numbers of the season since Durant went down, averaging 32.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 7.4 assists on 48/42/84 shooting splits. The Nets are also winning the minutes he plays, as he's a +5.4 in the box score over the 39 minutes he's playing during those games.
Nic Claxton and Seth Curry are also playing well of late to support Irving. Claxton is averaging a double-double, scoring 18.9 points a night while grabbing 11.1 rebounds (2.7 offensive) while blocking 3.2 shots a night since Durant went down. Curry, meanwhile, is back to his hot-shooting ways after starting the season slowly, averaging 16.8 points a night during this stretch while knocking down 46.7% of his three-pointers and 52.1% of his shots overall.
In tonight's matchup, then, the Lakers will be challenged to contain the Nets' offense, particularly on the perimeter, while also closing out possessions with defensive rebounds. With both LeBron and AD sitting out, there is potential for Hachimura to get a bigger dose of minutes and for Wenyen Gabriel to make a reappearance in the lineup after getting DNP's in the team's last two games.