Lakers vs. Nets Preview: Can Brooklyn Keep It Close?

The Lakers have the big names on paper, but the Nets have downed this team before and proven they can win games without their stars. Jacob McKenna gives side to bet for LA-Brooklyn.

Lakers vs. Nets Odds

Lakers Odds -3.5
Nets Odds +3.5
Over/Under 226.5
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Los Angeles Lakers will continue their six-game Eastern Conference road trip on Tuesday as they travel to Brooklyn to square off against the Nets.

The Lakers have struggled to find any sort of rhythm this season with their newly constructed roster, and as a result, they enter this matchup with a 23-24 record and in eighth place in the Western Conference.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn has pieced together enough wins to give itself the third overall seed in the Eastern Conference, even when it’s been without many of its star players.

The Nets will once again have some of their stars sitting on the bench for this game, which may give the Lakers the chance they have been looking for in order to find their footing.

Will LA capitalize and take advantage of a short-handed Nets team, or will they continue to play below expectations?

Los Angeles Lakers

When the Lakers acquired several players in the offseason via trade and free agency, including Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwight Howard, it appeared they would be able to climb their way to the top of the NBA once again.

That roster would have been nearly unbeatable 10 years ago, but as we have seen this season, this group of players is struggling to win games.

Most of their issues come on the offensive end of the floor, where they have posted the 23rd-best Offensive Rating, according to NBA Advanced Stats, at 108.5. Those struggles have become even more evident as of late, as LA’s recent play has led to just two wins and an average of 104 points per game in its last five games.

Defensively, this team has not been much better, mainly because Anthony Davis has missed the last 17 games so the Lakers haven’t provided much resistance to opponents in the painted area.

On the season, this Lakers team has posted a Defensive Rating of 109.9, ranking 19th in the NBA. However, in their most recent 15 games, a stretch in which Davis has been on the sideline, that Defensive Rating has shot up to 116. In that same span of time, the Lakers are surrendering an average of 51.7 points per game in the paint, too, which is the fifth-most in the NBA.

Luckily for LA, Davis is expected to suit up for this matchup after a lengthy absence, which means the Lakers will be nearly 100% healthy.

Brooklyn Nets

The Brooklyn Nets will be forced to play this matchup without Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Durant is out with a knee issue, and Irving is still not allowed to play games in New York due to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Joe Harris and Paul Millsap will join them on the bench with injuries of their own, and Nicolas Claxton could be right there with them, although he has a shot to play.

Many would assume that Durant’s absence would pose some issues for this offense, but that has not been the case.

In the four games Durant has missed, Brooklyn is shooting an incredible 50.1% from the floor and 38% from deep, both of which are up about two percentage points when compared to their season averages. The Nets have also seen their Offensive Rating increase from 112.2 to 119.4 in that same time span.

However, all four of those games have come on the road, meaning that Irving was on the floor and contributing. Irving averaged 28 points per game while shooting 53% from the floor in those games, so his impact on the offensive end will certainly be missed.

The defense hasn’t been nearly as spectacular without Durant, allowing opponents to shoot 48% from the floor and seeing the Defensive Rating climb to 119.3 from 109.7.

Claxton has missed the last seven games as well, which has contributed to Brooklyn’s struggles on that end of the floor.

Lakers-Nets Pick

The Lakers have been playing underwhelming basketball as of late, and I’m not sure the return of Davis will suddenly fix that. LA’s inconsistencies have been glaring, and even with Davis on the floor, it’s just 13-14 overall this season.

On the other side, the Nets have been able to get the job done even while shorthanded, which has already included an outright win over this Lakers team on Christmas Day without Durant and Irving seeing a single minute.

In that game, James Harden and Patty Mills combined for 70 points, which proves that Brooklyn has more quality scoring options outside of their star players.

The Lakers have the bigger names on paper, but Brooklyn has been the better team all year, and at the minimum, I think it will be able to stay within striking distance.

Pick: Brooklyn Nets +3