The Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets will meet for the first time this season in what could be a preview of this season’s NBA Finals.
The bad NBA 2021 news is that each team will be without one of their key stars for this matchup, but it will nevertheless be a fascinating battle between two of the top teams in the league.
Elsewhere, the struggling Bucks and Kings will look to snap their respective four-game losing skids on the road against the Raptors and Heat, respectively.
Here is SBOTOP’s in-depth breakdown of all three games on the NBA schedule.
Milwaukee Bucks @ Toronto Raptors
The Bucks are in the middle of their longest losing skid in the Mike Budenholzer era. They have lost their last four games in a row after going down to the Raptors, 124-113.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had a fine game with 34 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists, and 5 steals, but Khris Middleton was a non-factor offensively with just 11 points in 38 minutes.
Unsurprisingly, the Bucks’ slump has coincided with Jrue Holiday’s absence due to Covid. Not only is Holiday their primary playmaker, but he is also their top perimeter defender, and his absence has made the Bucks’ already shaky defence even weaker.
The Raptors’ Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry capitalised on Holiday’s absence as they combined for 51 points and eight 3-pointers in their win over the Bucks. However, Lowry picked up an ankle injury and is questionable to play in the rematch.
The Raptors are already quite shallow in the backcourt, so Lowry’s potential absence would tip the NBA 2021 odds even more toward the Bucks.
Pascal Siakam will need to have a big game for Toronto to complete the sweep of the Bucks. The All-Star forward has been a big reason for the Raptors’ recent resurgence, averaging 24.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.4 assists over his last 10 games.
Sacramento Kings @ Miami Heat
How the mighty Kings have fallen. After going 7-1 in an eight-game stretch, they have now lost four games in a row during their recent homestand. Their defence has dropped off a cliff as they’ve given up an average of 125 points during their losing skid.
Starting forward Harrison Barnes, who has been the subject of trade rumours, has been struggling of late. He is averaging just 7.4 points on 31 per cent shooting over his last five games. He will miss the Heat matchup due to a foot injury.
Nemanja Bjelica, who has been out of the rotation for most of the season, could see more playing time with Barnes out.
As for the Heat, they have their own problems. The reigning Eastern Conference champions have now lost three in a row after a devastating collapse in an overtime loss to the Warriors last night.
With Goran Dragic still out, Jimmy Butler has continued to handle the playmaking duties for Miami. Butler is averaging nearly nine assists over his last 10 games, a stretch which began when he had 30 points and 8 assists in a one-point win over the Kings last month.
However, the Heat’s supporting cast has struggled with consistency all season, which is why they are just 11-17 on the year.
Los Angeles Lakers @ Brooklyn Nets
The Lakers looked just fine in their first game for the foreseeable future without All-Star big man Anthony Davis as they beat the Timberwolves, 112-104.
Davis aggravated his troublesome Achilles injury in their loss to the Nuggets and will miss the next few weeks. With Davis out, LeBron James stepped up to score 30 points, with 13 rebounds and 7 assists. Dennis Schroder added 24 points while Montrezl Harrell had 17 points off the bench.
Kyle Kuzma, who got the start in Davis’ place, had a quiet game offensively, but he is also capable of providing additional points.
The Lakers will need all the firepower they can get as they take on the Nets, who are now on a four-game winning streak. That’s despite missing superstar Kevin Durant for three of those games.
And even with Kyrie Irving also out against Phoenix due to a back problem, James Harden led a miraculous 24-point comeback to stun the Suns, 128-124.
Durant will miss out once again due to a hamstring strain, but Irving has been listed as probable to play against his old team-mate James.
Irving and Harden have been playing well together in the Brooklyn backcourt to make up for Durant’s absence. Irving went off for 40 points, while Harden had a triple-double of 29 points, 13 rebounds, and 14 assists in their win over the Sacramento Kings.
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