Give the Lakers credit for what they haven’t been able to do in so many of their recent losses — close out games effectively. When playing the lowly Nets, though, this of course begs the question of why L.A. went down to the wire against them in the first place. As has been the case for far too many games this season, the Lakers were unable to build on their leads, relinquishing a 10 point halftime lead almost immediately and never pulling away from New Jersey until the final minute of the game.
Kobe didn’t shoot the ball well (9-19 for 32 points) in the first half, but his play in the third quarter and latter half of the fourth quarter was the big difference in the game. Bryant seamlessly shifted from scorer to facilitator down the stretch, including two momentum-shifting dimes to Gasol and Odom in the final two minutes. #24 said in his post-game interview that he felt like he needed to put his stamp on the game in the second half, which is exactly what he did.
Lamar also played exceptionally well in the first half and in the final minutes of the game (22 points, seven rebounds), showcasing all facets of his versatility, driving to the hoop with ease and connecting on a dagger three pointer that essentially iced the game for the forum blue and gold. Despite a few nice plays in the final minute and a half, Pau (15 points on 6-19 shooting) was mostly ineffective against Brook Lopez and the rest of the Nets front line. He still managed to pull down 11 rebounds, but the Lakers as a team were out-rebounded 45-42, including a 15-9 disparity in offensive boards.
Neither Pau nor Odom were particularly adept at stopping much of anything in the lane as the Nets held a 30-14 edge in points in the paint just by halftime, led by Lopez’s 25 points. The front court tandem of Anthony Morrow and Devin Harris didn’t shoot particularly well (6-17 each), but still combined for 31 points against minimal resistance in the lane. Not that this should come as surprising news for the Lakers as this has stood out as a weakness all season long. More disturbingly, L.A. allowed the Nets guards to dictate the pace of the game and the Lakers almost wound up paying for it in the end.
Overall, this game was more or a less wash in the grand scheme of things; little gained other than a W in the standings. Neither team shot well (42% for L.A., 40% for New Jersey) and the underachieving Lakers were lucky to walk away without suffering another early season loss to a subpar team. More than anything, I’d like to see them recapture some desperately needed momentum during the rest of this road trip, beginning with Washington on Tuesday.