The highly anticipated matchup between the Brooklyn Nets and LA Lakers will finally take place on Thursday night at Staples Center. The game will miss a couple of key pieces because of the absence of the Nets’ Kevin Durant and the Lakers’ Anthony Davis. But it will not be devoid of drama, with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and James Harden set to duel.
The marquee matchup, which features one of the league’s top title contenders in the East versus the defending champions, will have people talking about its importance long after the game is over.
So who do you think will win it?
Let’s dive into some of the stats behind the upcoming Brooklyn Nets-LA Lakers match, that could help us predict and determine the final outcome.
1. LA Lakers are 5-1 this season without Anthony Davis
One of the best ways to predict how the game will go is to look at how well LeBron James handled Davis’ absence this season. With a 5-1 record, the LA Lakers have fared quite well with Davis sidelined and with James leading the team on his own. It’s a small sample size but it gives us an idea of how good the LA Lakers are when one of their stars is out.
According to Statmuse, here are James’ stats without Davis alongside him this season:
25.2 points / 9.3 rebounds / 8.0 assists / 1.0 steals / 50.4% FG / 26.8% 3-pt FG / 77.45 FT
You’d think his scoring would be higher, but it looks like the four-time MVP is able to lead his team to victory without needing to shoulder the scoring burden.
For the Brooklyn Nets game, expect James to produce similar or better numbers for the LA Lakers, especially since the Nets are third-worst in the league in points allowed.
2. Brooklyn Nets tied for the best offensive rating (117.9) in the NBA (with James Harden)
When the Brooklyn Nets put together three of the most gifted scorers in the game today, points are going to come by that much easier and it will show in the stats. Kevin Durant (though he’s not going to play on Thursday) averages 29.0 points per game while Kyrie Irving and James Harden put up 28.3 points and 24.5 points per night, respectively.
The Brooklyn Nets are tied with the Milwaukee Bucks in offensive rating at 117.9. That output represents their offensive rating since Harden arrived in Brooklyn, where he has been racking up double-digit assists to go along with his 20-plus points average.
Harden has made the Brooklyn Nets’ offense more efficient and ensures it runs smoothly. He showed his playmaking and scoring wizardry when he led the Brooklyn Nets to a 128-124 comeback win against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday without Irving and Durant. Harden recorded 38 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds with only two turnovers.
Even without Durant, the Brooklyn Nets will be dangerous with Harden and Irving together. The LA Lakers’ team defense will have to be sharper than ever.
3. LA Lakers own the league's No. 1 defensive rating (105.2)
While the Brooklyn Nets own the offensive side, when it comes to defense, the LA Lakers are at the top of the conversation with a defensive rating of 105.2 in 29 games. However, most of the games that were measured had Anthony Davis playing rather than in street clothes.
Nevertheless, head coach Frank Vogel will want to keep the team’s defensive identity intact against the Brooklyn Nets by installing a semi-permanent (until Davis returns) defensive strategy that plays to the strengths of his personnel.
The LA Lakers have a number of excellent defenders. Even with Davis sidelined, Alex Caruso, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma and Marc Gasol present an obstacle for opponents to hurdle.
The Brooklyn Nets would do well to be wary, as this LA Lakers team will cause turnovers and will run the break every opportunity it gets.
4. LeBron James is 31-14 against Kyrie Irving and James Harden combined.
Throughout their careers, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and James Harden have faced each other on multiple occasions.
According to Land of Basketball.com, James has a 10-2 record versus Irving and a 21-12 mark against Harden. The record represents their head-to-head matchups regardless of their team. James, Irving and Harden have played for three teams each but this is the first time LeBron will play against them together as members of the Brooklyn Nets.
The LA Lakers forward has never faced Irving in the playoffs before, while Harden has been his opponent in the postseason a couple of times. Harden and James went head-to-head in the 2012 NBA Finals five times and five more times in the playoffs last season.
One thing is for certain, based on these stats—James doesn’t like losing to either of them. The four-time MVP’s resolve will be tested on Thursday as soon as the ball is tossed in the air for the tipoff against the Brooklyn Nets.
5. LA Lakers are 8-6 versus winning teams
One of the most concerning stats against the LA Lakers is their winning percentage versus teams above .500. According to ESPN’s stats, the LA Lakers have a 57.1 winning percentage against the top teams they have faced so far, whereas they are 14-1 against losing teams.
This means the LA Lakers are beating the teams they should be beating but only have a passing mark against the best squads in the league. With the second-best record, you’d think the Lakers are at least a cut above the top teams by this measurement but the stats suggest they’re not.
In contrast, the Brooklyn Nets have the second-best mark against .500 teams with a 10-3 record. They get pumped up and take it up a notch when facing the better teams in the league.
If the LA Lakers want to win this game, they have to match the Brooklyn Nets’ focus and determination.