The Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers entered Thursday evening’s recreation at Staples Middle with loads of star energy, even with the Nets lacking Kevin Durant and the Lakers with out Anthony Davis.
In addition to Davis, LeBron James and the Lakers were also without start line guard Dennis Schroder. James confronted Kyrie Irving, his former teammate, and Irving improved to 3-10 towards LeBron. James Harden led the Nets with 23 factors and 11 assists in Brooklyn’s 109-98 victory. The Nets are actually 10-1 towards groups with a .500-or-better document.
Listed here are takeaways from what might be an NBA Finals preview:
Nets discover success in small ball
Over the previous two video games, the Nets have sharpened a potent weapon: their small-ball lineup. Towards the Lakers, the Nets’ smaller beginning lineup of Harden, Irving, Joe Harris, Bruce Brown and Jeff Green aided Brooklyn in constructing an 11-point halftime lead. The early success of that small lineup compelled Lakers coach Frank Vogel to begin Markieff Morris over Marc Gasol to start the second half. It was the identical small lineup that helped the Nets climb out of a 12-point deficit (they’d been down by as many as 24) towards the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday and are available again to win. The small lineup has additionally been constantly used to shut out video games. With Inexperienced at middle, the Nets have outscored their opponents by 10.2 factors per 100 possessions. When Durant returns, the Nets’ small-ball lineup stands to change into much more harmful. — Malika Andrews
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) February 19, 2021
LeBron needed to do all of it
Popping out of a third-quarter timeout on Thursday, the Staples Middle video board confirmed a compilation of LeBron James highlights, beginning with a baby-faced rookie in outsized Cleveland Cavaliers warm-ups, all the best way to the bearded 18-year veteran within the Lakers uniform he wears at the moment. The nostalgia reel completed with an outsized graphic, “35K POINTS,” commemorating James turning into simply the third participant in league historical past to score 35,000 career points, as he joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone in that elite group with a free throw within the first half. Synthetic crowd noise echoed out of audio system above because the 36-year-old James, taking part in in Sport No. 30 of 30 on the Lakers’ schedule this season, toiled towards the league’s newest superteam.
Per week in the past, Lakers-Nets had all of the makings of one of many video games of the 12 months. However with Davis out indefinitely with a strained calf and Achilles tendinosis in his proper leg and Durant lacking a 3rd straight recreation with a hamstring harm, the matchup misplaced lots of juice. Schroder, the pesky guard the Lakers deliberate to throw on Irving all evening, being a late scratch due to the league’s well being and security protocols did not assist issues, both.
Whereas the sport did not practically dwell as much as its hype, James did his half, scoring 32 factors, grabbing 8 rebounds, dishing 7 assists and including a few clips to that profession spotlight reel — one notably poetic turnaround rainbow shot over Jeff Inexperienced and one other hovering one-handed baseline jam.
👑 rises in #PhantomCam
Watch the 4th quarter on TNT pic.twitter.com/92BIpa0e5w
— NBA (@NBA) February 19, 2021
We’ll all have to attend to see if these groups will meet once more at full power within the NBA Finals. Within the meantime, James, the sport’s fixed commonplace for practically twenty years, will probably be on the market, empty seats or not, taking part in the sport he has found out like few have. — Dave McMenamin
Nets proceed sizzling 3-point capturing
When the Nets added James Harden to All-Stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, there was loads of dialog about Brooklyn’s offensive potential with three of the league’s greatest scorers. The Nets’ capturing may need gotten overshadowed. After one other scorching capturing evening (18-of-39, 46%), Brooklyn is now capturing a league-best 42% from 3-point vary since Harden’s debut on Jan. 16. And the Nets aren’t slowing down; they’re heating up. Brooklyn’s 65 3s over the previous three wins — all performed with out Durant — have been surpassed by simply two groups over a three-game stretch: the 2018-19 Houston Rockets and this 12 months’s Milwaukee Bucks.
The Nets have the luxurious of a deep steady of shooters. Since Harden’s debut, Brooklyn has five players making better than 40% of their 3s on at least 60 attempts — all three stars plus position gamers Joe Harris (whose total 51% accuracy leads the NBA) and Jeff Inexperienced. A sixth participant, reserve Tyler Johnson, has hit 42% of his extra restricted makes an attempt over the previous month (13-of-31).
It will be exhausting for the Nets to maintain capturing this effectively. No group in NBA historical past has managed 42% 3-point capturing over a full schedule with the road at its present distance. (The Charlotte Hornets shot 43% in 1996-97, the final of three seasons it was briefly moved in to 22 toes.) However the degree of capturing Brooklyn has put round its stars is a key motive this offense has proved so tough to defend. — Kevin Pelton
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