The Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers kicked off the 2021-22 NBA preseason, a welcome look for basketball-starved fans. As expected, we didn’t see much of the big names get action. LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony didn’t take part in the game for the Lakers, while Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Blake Griffin also sat out of the game. The only star that saw court time was Anthony Davis, who played 11 minutes and dropped 6 points, a rebound, an assist and a steal.
Even though it was a preseason game, there were still a few interesting takeaways from the contest.
It was great to see LaMarcus Aldridge back on the court, and he showed a preview of the kind of production that he can chip in for the Nets as he tries to win a title after coming back from a brief retirement brought on by an irregular heartbeat. He had 6 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and a block in 15 minutes. He’s still a big threat from the midrange, and can draw attention when he gets the ball in his comfort zones, which was highlighted by a play in the fourth quarter where he got an easy assist after getting the ball near the elbow and passing out of a double team.
Paul Millsap had a quiet double-double with 10 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal in 18 minutes of action, and is another solid veteran that the Nets will need when the starters rest in the coming playoffs.
However, the most memorable moment of the game was a bizarre sequence of events revolving around Dwight Howard, who’s back for a third stint in LA after playing for the Philadelphia 76ers last season.
I swear, only Howard could manage something like this. In a play that caused a long delay of the game, Howard committed a flagrant foul, his sixth and final one of the game, and also got a technical foul with 1:22 left in the third quarter. This happened off-ball as Austin Reaves hit a three-pointer to bring the Lakers to within five.
The whole sequence was even weirder because Nets Center Day’Ron Sharpe was called for a loose ball foul on the same play, because he brought Howard down by accident which is what also caused Howard to which his arm back and elbow Sharpe in the face.
The technical came afterwards, where it looked like Howard may have been baited into it by a hoodie-wearing Harden – another weird part of the incident.
The Lakers still managed to make it an 84-81 game heading into the fourth quarter, but they started that period getting outscored 24-2 and eventually allowed the Nets to complete a blowout 123-97 win.
Again, this is a preseason game so the result doesn’t matter, but Howard’s propensity for technical fouls (he led the league in the 2021-20 regular season with 18) could become a problem when things start to get heated later in the season, and especially so in the playoffs. In close games, those technical and flagrant fouls can create huge momentum swings. It’s also worth noting that Howard was sixth in the league in total fouls with 231 in his previous campaign for the Sixers. Howard’s also currently 20th all-time in personal fouls.
To be fair to Howard, though, the rest of the team and the fans showed him some love as he fouled out of the game.
Other game notes:
Brooklyn’s Cam Thomas was the leading scorer for the game with 21 points on 7 of 14 shooting (6 of 7 free throws), a welcome sign for the Nets, who drafted him with the 27th pick in this year’s draft. He joined Sekou Doumbouya, David Duke Jr. and Sharpe as four Nets bench players in double figures. If Thomas carries this kind of production into the regular season, he’s a cinch to become a key part of the Nets’ rotation, as they’ll need a capable scorer who can create his own shot when their Big Three are resting.
Rajon Rondo got a few minutes in the game, entering to an ovation from the Lakers crowd. He was a key contributor on that 2019-20 title-winning Lakers team. Talen Horton-Tucker, the youngest player on this Lakers roster at 25-years-old, struggled from the field and finished with 10 points of 3 of 11 shooting.