Here is what you need to know before the Lakers complete their road trip against the Brooklyn Nets.
1) A lot hinges on JaVale
Starting center JaVale McGee missed Sunday’s game due to flu-like symptoms and it had a negative chain reaction for the Lakers, who could not keep John Wall (40 points, 14 assists) and the Washington Wizards out of the paint.
This value shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering McGee has been one of the league’s best rim protectors this season — ranking second in the NBA in opponent percentage at the hoop (48.0) and fourth in blocks (2.88).
A constant lob threat, he’s also hardly a slouch on the offense end, averaging a career-high 11.8 points, while placing fourth in the league in both field goal percentage (62.6) and dunks (76).
And we’ve seen how effective McGee can be even when ill. He fought through his symptoms in Saturday’s win over Charlotte, proving 19 points on 9-of-10 shooting with three blocks.
Lonzo LeBron JaVale pic.twitter.com/dk8j9JOQ6r
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) December 16, 2018
2) Don’t sleep on KCP
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has taken his game up a notch since the calendar flipped to December, scoring 12.6 points a night on 47.9 percent shooting from the field and 42.3 percent from deep.
That’s up from 8.0 points on 37.1 and 32.1 percent, respectively, in October and November.
While the rest of his teammates struggled in that loss to Washington, KCP had his best game of the season, dropping 25 points on 9-of-12 shooting with five assists.
He was excellent in transition, spotting up and knocking down. But he also flashed some ability to attack off the dribble and create his own shot.
3) These aren’t the same Nets
Brooklyn is one of the hottest teams in basketball, winning all of its last five games. During this stretch, the Nets offense has been scorching, leading the NBA in scoring (122.8), while ranking second in both field goal percentage (50.2) and 3-point percentage (40.4).
Their success stems from the stellar play of several contributors, including former Laker D’Angelo Russell, who is coming off a 32-point game against Atlanta.
Brooklyn also has two starter-worthy players coming off the pine.
L.A. native Spencer Dinwiddie leads the NBA in bench scoring (17.5), having scoring 25-plus in three of his last four games. Meanwhile, one-time Laker Ed Davis is a monster on the boards, gobbling the league’s ninth-most offensive rebounds (3.3) and the third-most total rebounds per 48 minutes (22.6).
Lakers: JaVale McGee (flu-like symptoms) is questionable. Brandon Ingram (sprained left ankle), Rajon Rondo (right hand surgery) and Michael Beasley (personal reasons) are out. Alex Caruso and Johnathan Williams are on G League assignment.
Nets: Allen Crabbe (sore right knee) is questionable. Caris LeVert (subtalar dislocation, right foot), Dzanan Musa (left shoulder subluxation) and Trevor Graham (left hamstring strain) are out.
Tip-Off: 4:30 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet in L.A. NBA TV nationally.
Radio: 710 ESPN and 1330 KWKW
Unis: Gold Icon
Location: Barclays Center — Brooklyn, New York
Source: Los Angeles Lakers