While the Lakers are one of the most illustrious teams in NBA history, they are in the midst of one of their leanest stretches in franchise history. They enter tonight's game in fourth place in the Pacific division, with a 7-8 record under coach Mike D'Antoni.
The most significant aspect of this year's Laker team isn't about who's on the court, but who hasn't been. Despite a lucrative contract extension he signed this week, future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant has not been medically cleared to play this season after suffering a torn Achilles tendon in his left leg last April.
With Bryant sidelined, and former two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash also out injured with no timetable to return, the Lakers have leaned on All-Star forward/center Pau Gasol and shooting guard Nick Young to pick up the slack on offense.
The last time these two teams met last February, Gasol tore his plantar fascia late in the game and ended up missing a little over six weeks of action.
Key Matchup: Keep your eye on how the Nets match up with Pau Gasol, likely with Kevin Garnett and Andray Blatche primarily. Brook Lopez is unlikely to play tonight, and Gasol may give the Nets problems defensively, as he's the Lakers' leading scorer and rebounder this season.
While Gasol is a skilled offensive player, and the Nets have struggled defending the paint without Lopez, Gasol has actually done most of his damage from mid-range this year. Gasol is only shooting 51.6% from inside eight feet, so the Nets will have to be aware of that and not allow him to get comfortable.
Player to Watch: Andray Blatche has done an excellent job offensively the last few games, scoring in double figures in six straight games, including a team-high 24 points last night. Look for him to have another strong game from a scoring standpoint against a Lakers team that's been middle of the pack defensively this season.