LA Lakers vs Brooklyn Nets - 12/25, 8:00 PM ET, Staples Centre
Two of the biggest franchises in the NBA will go toe-to-toe on Christmas Day this year as they look to close out the year with a big victory.
The Lakers currently sit just outside the playoff spots in seventh place in the Western Conference, with a 16-15 record at the time of writing. They have a 10-7 record at home so far this season, while away from the Staples Centre they have racked up a losing 6-8 record for the campaign.
The Nets on the other hand sit as the number one seed in the Eastern Conference with an amazing 21-9 record for the season despite being without Kyrie Irving all season and James Harden for parts of it. At home they have earned a 10-6 record but even more impressive is their record on the road, where they currently sit at 11-3 for the season.
Both teams have been in decent form in their last ten games, with the Nets racking up a 7-3 record while the Lakers earned a 6-4 record across those games.
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The Lakers have been able to welcome LeBron James back into the fold recently and his form has helped them turn their season around.
Anthony Davis is still out with a sprained MCL injury picked up last week and will miss the game meaning the 2020 NBA champions will need Russell Westbrook to step up alongside James.
Austin Reaves, Dwight Howard, Talen Horton-Tucker, Kent Bazemore, Avery Bradley Kendrick Nunn, and Malik Monk are all likely to sit out under the league's COVID health and safety protocols, with all seven players missing the game in midweek against the Suns.
For the Nets, it's not much better news.
Brooklyn had their two games against the Denver Nuggets and Washington Wizards postponed due to having not enough players available to take part after having ten players in health and safety protocols as well as injuries.
It's expected that most will be able to return by Christmas Day, including potentially Kyrie Irving for his first appearance of the season.
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This is a game of basketball between one of the very best teams in the NBA and a team that has really struggled to live up to their expectations this season.
The Lakers are averaging 110.47 points per game this season, ranking them eighth in the league, but defensively they're allowing 111.17 points per game this season which puts them way down in 25th place across the 30 NBA teams defensively.
The Nets aren't as proficient offensively, averaging slightly less with 109.7 points per game but defensively they only let up 106.3 points per game on average which gives them the tenth best defense across the NBA.
On the road the Nets are an even scarier proposition, averaging 111.64 points per game with a 47.3 percent field goal percentage and 38.53% from beyond the arc. They average 44.5 rebounds per game on the road too, which gives them the fifth-best scoring average in the league, second-best field goal percentage and 18th best rebound average.
Compare that to the Lakers at home who manage 111.88 points per game, a 47.75 percent field goal percentage, 36.35 percent from the three-point line, and 45.24 rebounds per game and this should be one heck of a game.
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It's very hard to predict this game without knowing exactly who is available and who isn't.
The Nets should win this quite comfortably on paper, but with so many potential absentees the Lakers have a real chance to take a big scalp at the Staples Centre and get their season up and running for the new year.
LeBron James and Russell Westbrook almost always turn up for the big occasion and together can put together some excellent plays, but defensively the team will suffer without the other regular starts.
The Nets however could be in very big trouble if Kevin Durant isn't available to play. He's been by far and away from the best player in New York this season and one of the very best in the league, so without him, everything could fall apart.
Harden has struggled for consistency and Irving is yet to play this season, so even if they play it's difficult to know what will happen.
At this point in time, we have to go with what we know and that's that LeBron and Westbrook will play. Those two superstars against a team that is probably going to be without their best player, means the Lakers should get a home victory against the odds.
|NBA Christmas Day|