JR SportBrief: Nets, not Clippers, are the Lakers’ biggest threat

The Clippers beat the Lakers on opening night, but JR SportBrief believes the Brooklyn Nets – with a healthy Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving – are the biggest threat to LeBron James this season

December 23, 2020 - 8:42 am
Kyrie Irving nets

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The Los Angeles Clippers spoiled ring night for the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, beating LeBron James and the defending champs, 116-109. Paul George (33 points) and Kawhi Leonard (26) combined to score over half of the Clippers’ points, as James finished with 22 points, five rebounds and five assists.

Still, while it was a nice win for the Clippers, JR SportBrief does not believe they are the Lakers’ biggest threat this season. No, that would be the Brooklyn Nets, who dismantled Golden State, 125-99, on Tuesday.

“If they are healthy, they’re not going to steamroll everybody like they did Golden State tonight,” JR said on CBS Sports Radio, “but the Brooklyn Nets have two of the best scorers, they have two of the best closers, and they have a whole lot of depth.”

Kyrie Irving scored a game-high 26 points for Brooklyn, while Kevin Durant scored 22 and Caris LeVert netted 20 off the bench.

“Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert – these are borderline All-Star guards on any other team,” JR said. “You think about a Jarrett Allen, you think about a Joe Harris knocking down shots – basketball is all about the closers. Basketball is all about the stars. Who’s going to take over a game? Who’s going to win it for you in crunch time? Who’s going to gain the momentum and bring you and drag you back when you’re down double digits? Who can get hot? The Brooklyn Nets, they’re a team that has that.”

The Nets went 35-37 last season and were swept by the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the playoffs. With Durant and Irving fully healthy, however, they are a much more dangerous squad.

“I think when we look at any potential early projections, obviously we have to think about who’s going to be healthy,” JR said. “But it wouldn’t surprise me if the Eastern Conference Finals was the Miami Heat and the Brooklyn Nets. And in the West, it wouldn’t surprise me if we saw the Lakers and then potentially the Clippers or the Nuggets. But the biggest threat, I got to go with Brooklyn. I’d also have to take a look at these Clippers, but I am concerned about their depth.”

The Clippers underachieved last season, squandering a 3-1 lead over the Denver Nuggets in the second round of the playoffs. Many players, including George, struggled in the bubble. 

That should not be the case this season.

“This is a wild year, a wild season,” JR said. “There are no excuses this year when it comes down to the bubble. Hopefully we’ll have some fans at the end of the year. Basketball is back. Nobody got a break. Everybody is out there playing. The travel schedule has been adjusted. This is basketball. Let’s see what we got. 2020 has been weird; 2020 is coming to a close, and the NBA season is underway. The Los Angeles Lakers are out there ready to defend their NBA championship, and I think the Brooklyn Nets have the best chance of any team to give them a tough time to go out there and repeat as champions.”