A potential NBA Finals preview had a preseason feel with so many top names unavailable as the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Brooklyn Nets 126-101 in New York on Saturday night.
Andre Drummond had 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Lakers and Dennis Schroder added 19 points before he and Nets star Kyrie Irving were ejected in the third quarter.
A nationally televised matchup already missing plenty of star power lost even more when Irving started jawing with Schroder and neither player stopped quickly enough for the officials.
Defending champions Los Angeles blew it open soon after the ejections with a 15-2 burst to open an 88-71 lead.
LeBron James (right ankle sprain) and Anthony Davis (right calf strain) remain out for the Lakers, while James Harden is sidelined with a strained right hamstring for the Nets.
The Lakers handled being short-handed much better, putting eight players in double figures. Ben McLemore, in his second game with Los Angeles, scored 17.
Kevin Durant scored 22 points in his second game back for the Nets following a 23-game absence with his own hamstring injury while Irving added 18 but the Nets had their nine-game home winning streak snapped.
Besides James and Davis, who were sitting on the bench, the Lakers were also without Kyle Kuzma (left calf strain), Marc Gasol (left hamstring tightness) and Wesley Matthews (right Achilles tendon tightness).
The Lakers have fallen to fifth in the Western Conference during James’ 11-game absence, while the Nets entered play leading the East.
Both teams have upgraded from the buyout market in hopes of deep playoff runs, with the Lakers adding Drummond and Brooklyn signing LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin.
The Lakers title defence sure looked playoff ready, holding the NBA’s highest-scoring team 18 points below its season average. And they showed off some postseason physicality, with Markieff Morris getting a flagrant foul in the first half for elbowing Irving.