By Jason Schott – BrooklynFans.com Reporter / Assignment Editor – @JESchott19
The Los Angeles Lakers are playing their best basketball of the season, just in time for their first visit to Brooklyn to play the Nets on Tuesday night.
The Lakers have won five of their last six games, starting with wins over the Utah Jazz on Friday, January 25th, and the Oklahoma City Thunder two days later.
The Oklahoma City win may have been their best defensive game of the season, as they held Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in check. On offense, the value of having Steve Nash back in the lineup was shown, as he scored 17 points with 5 assists, and it was Kobe Bryant who dished out 14 assists along with his customary 21 points.
Despite this recent upswing, the Lakers are out of the playoff picture at 22-26. This season is far from over, and with the team they have, it should be expected that they will sneak in to the eighth playoff spot, if not higher.
That reason is Kobe Bryant, who, at 34, is still one of the premier players of this sport. He is averaging 27.7 points a game, higher than his career average of 25. His assist average of 5.4 is a bit higher than his career average of 4.7.
In his last five games, Bryant is distributing the ball more, averaging 9.4 assists per game, while still scoring 17.4 points a night. This is the formula they need to win, as it became apparent early in the season that when Bryant scores 30 or more, they are likely to lose.
The Lakers are without Dwight Howard, who is suffering from a shoulder injury. It would have been fun to see him play against the Nets, since he wanted to come here in the offseason, but was instead traded by Orlando to the Lakers.
Howard has not fit in well with the Lakers, specifically Head Coach Mike D’Antoni’s offense. He has averaged 16.9 points and 11.9 rebounds per game, just short of career averages of 18.3 points and 12.9 rebounds.
A key for the Lakers is getting Metta World Peace back on track, as he is averaging 13.2 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, and has not looked like the dominant player of past seasons. He is out of Tuesday night’s game because of a suspension for a flagrant foul on Brandon Knight during Sunday’s game in Detroit.
Steve Blake was a key part of the Lakers last season, and they missed him this year after he got hurt in the first two weeks of the season. He returned on January 29th in a win against New Orleans, and is averaging 5 points and 3 assists in 15 minutes, taking some of the heat off Nash.
In their first meeting this season, the Lakers beat the Nets 95-90 on November 20th in Los Angeles. Bryant had 25 points, and the Lakers came from behind late in the fourth quarter.
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