The Los Angeles Lakers are on a roll, having won 5 of their last six games, but will take-on the Brooklyn Nets tonight without two starters. The NBA announced this morning that they have suspended Metta World Peace for his “tussle” with Brandon Knight of the Pistons in Sunday’s victory. Dwight Howard will sit for the third straight game as he is still dealing with pain in his right shoulder. Kobe Bryant was diagnosed with a sprained right elbow, which he sustained during the game in Detroit, but he will start for Los Angeles tonight.
The loss of MWP for a game only increases the role of C/PF Pau Gasol on both ends of the court. Without Howard and World Peace, Gasol will be the only rebounding threat for Los Angeles. With an injured Bryant, Gasol will have to pick up the slack on offense. Gasol has averaged 22.5 points and 11 rebounds in the last two games, in which he started at center.
Either Antawn Jamison or Robert Sacre should be slotted into the starting lineup but regardless of who gets the nod, both will see big minutes tonight. A short staffed roster will also force Mike D’Antoni to give time to players like Dairus Morris and Devin Ebanks, both of whom haven’t seen the floor in over five games.
The Brooklyn Nets are a curious case this season. They are 28-19 and sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. They don’t rank particularly high in most statistical categories (18th in points, 18th in rebounds, 26th in assists) but yet are still comfortably in the playoff race. The reason? The Brooklyn Nets play tremendous defense: they are only allowing only 94.5 points a game, good enough for fifth in the NBA. However, the Brooklyn Nets have had their fair shares of offensive struggles, especially with the inconsistency they've received from small forward Gerald Wallace.
The size that Brooklyn has will present a major problem for the Lakers tonight. Brook Lopez is a very talented big man with great low post moves. The matchup between Lopez and Gasol will be one to watch tonight. Interim coach P.J. Carlesimo will also throw Andray Blatche, Reggie Evans, and Kris Humphries at the Lakers thin frontcourt.
The Lakers will be challenged on both ends of the court in Brooklyn tonight. The Lakers need a win tonight to build some momentum going into a week that will have Los Angeles matched up with the Celtics and the Heat.
#6 Clark SF #45 Wallace
#4 Jamison PF #30 Evans
#16 Gasol C #11 Lopez
#24 Bryant SG #7 Johnson
#10 Nash PG #8 Williams
The game tips-off at 4:30PM PT at Barclay’s Center on TWC SportsNet and NBATV.
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