Eleven days after the Los Angeles Lakers fired Mike Brown, they will finally have their next head coach on the bench.
Mike D’Antoni is set to make his debut as the Lakers coach on Tuesday night against the Brooklyn Nets. L.A. went 4-1 under interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff.
D’Antoni coached his first practice last Thursday, but was unable to be active during a game. His recovery from knee replacement surgery kept him from making his expected debut in Houston on Sunday.
The former Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks coach takes over a team that seems to be rounding into form. L.A. has looked better after starting off 1-4 under Brown, losing only to the San Antonio Spurs, since he was let go.
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Even without an injured Steve Nash, the Lakers offense excelled under Bickerstaff. They reached the 100-point mark in all of their wins under the interim head coach.
Dwight Howard’s defense hasn’t been as good, as he’s still revering from back surgery he underwent with the Orlando Magic. His offense, however, has been as good as it’s ever been in his career. With Kobe Bryant leading Los Angeles at 26.4 points per game, Howard is still managing to put up 20 points per contest on 61 percent shooting.
It’ll be the first time this season that Howard will face the team that he originally wanted to play for. The center told Orlando to deal him to Brooklyn in the offseason, but the two sides were unable to agree upon a trade. The Nets signed big man Brook Lopez to a max contract, essentially ending any chance of them acquiring Howard.
Without Howard, the Nets have gotten off to a fast start in their new home. They’re 6-2 in the 2012-2013 NBA season, and have the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.
Visiting L.A. will be Brooklyn’s biggest test of the year. They’ve looked good in the early going, but have done so against the easiest schedule in basketball. The Boston Celtics are the only team above .500 that they’ve beaten. They lost to the Miami Heat and Minnesota Timberwolves by a combined 41 points.
Brooklyn has played well defensively, but this could be one of their more high-scoring games. D’Antoni’s teams have never been known for stopping their opponents, and the Lakers have been an average defensive unit in 2012.
With Steve Blake starting at point guard for Los Angeles, Deron Williams could have one of his better games on the season. Likewise, Howard and Pau Gasol can take advantage of a Nets frontline that isn’t used to seeing two seven-footers.
Las Vegas oddsmakers expect the Lakers to come away with the victory. The consensus betting line has been set, with the point spread favoring L.A. by six points.
The contest is set to tip off at 10:30 p.m. at Staples Center. It can be watched live nationally on NBA TV.
Prediction: The Nets have feasted on the bottom-feeders of the NBA, and have yet to prove themselves against a team as talented as the Lakers. L.A. is rounding into form, with Howard and Bryant forming good chemistry on offense. Brooklyn doesn’t have enough to stop the Lakers massive frontline.
Predicted Score: Los Angeles 111, Brooklyn 102