Tuesday night Mike D’Antoni made his coaching debut with the Lakers as they took on the Brooklyn Nets. In a close battle, the Lakers were just barely able to squeak by the nets in the first matchup between these two power-house NBA franchises. The Nets managed to gain a slight advantage from their bench, but the Lakers starters possessed too much fire power for Brooklyn. Together, Kobe, Howard, Gasol and World Peace were able to combine for 82 points; each of them scoring at least 17 points.
With Nash sidelined for the Lakers, Deron Williams had to put up a big game in order for the Nets to get a win in Los Angeles. Williams ended the game with 22 points, 10 assists and four rebounds; far from a subpar performance, but not enough when you take on the Lakers and are ineffective at slowing down any of their top guns. Theoretically, a team could live with Kobe and Dwight Howard combining for 50 points as long as they were able to limit the scoring from the Laker forwards. However, Brooklyn could not prevent World Peace and Gasol each from scoring 17 points and combining for 19 rebounds.
The starting Brooklyn forwards, Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries, each only managed seven points. This 20 point margin from starting forwards was too much for the Nets to overcome. This game was a pretty good measuring instrument for this Brooklyn bunch. They were able to hang with the Lakers and were right there for 48 minutes. Despite the rebounding heroics from the Laker frontline (34), the Nets happened to win the battle on the boards just slightly (46-43). Wallace back in the lineup makes Brooklyn a very tough team to beat; on this night he led the team with five steals and three blocks.
The biggest obstacle this Brooklyn team is dealing with is getting consistent scoring from their players. Some nights their bench doesn’t bring a whole lot of offense and on others we have seen the stars of this team fail to show up. Brook Lopez has really been the most important player for this team as his presence inside is irreplaceable. He has failed to reach double-digit scoring only once and has recorded 20 or more in five out of nine games. Wallace has only played three games, but Coach Johnson would like to see him nearly double his seven PPG.
Joe Johnson will be the key player for the Nets offense all season. He has been struggling with his shot to start the season, but is still averaging 15 points. Depending on how you look at it, this could be a bad or not so bad thing. 15 points is lower than what Brooklyn needs from him, but assuming that his shot will heat up at some point this team will be just fine.
We cannot forget that this is an almost entirely new team in a new city. They have only played nine games, with Wallace missing six of them and bench scorer Marshon Brooks being absent for three. This team is still figuring out how to play together, how to finish games, and how to get better shots so that their shooting improves. Now that they have relocated to Brooklyn, they are facing immense pressure to win. With all that being said, the Nets have begun a new era with a 6-3 record. Right now, Brooklyn fans should be pleased with their team and remain patient as the team builds chemistry. After all, there should be plenty to cheer about in the future.