- Kobe had another efficient night which was sparked by his jump shot falling early. Kobe hit his first jumper, a long two from 17-feet, with about 6:25 left to play. After picking up his second foul immediately after, D’Antoni sent in Chris Duhon to replace Kobe, who waived him away sending Darius Morris to the bench. The move would prove to be successful as Kobe would go on to hit another 17-footer on the next possession, a three pointer and two more long twos before the first quarter ended. Kobe shooting the long two hasn’t been a trend this season, but he took eight of his 15 shots from the 15 to 23-foot range against
New JerseyBrooklyn. Despite the myriad long twos, Kobe was still able to manage 25 points on 15 shots to keep up with what has been the most efficient season of his career. Toward the end of the game, Kobe forced a few shots and had a few awful possessions, but for the most part, he played within the flow of the game, made the right passes (looking at you, 2-4-5 alley-oop) and knocked down the free throws when the game was on the line. What I did notice was that Kobe handled the ball a whole lot more tonight that he had all season — which may be why he took more long twos that usual. It’ll be interesting to go back and look at the film to see how many of his long shots came with him being the primary ball-handler.
- Dwight Howard was effective, scoring 23 points and recording 15 rebounds. Howard’s ability to get off the ground is improving from game-to-game as he continues to look more spry with each dunk he throws down. What hasn’t improved much is Howard’s free throw shooting, and the Nets tried to take direct advantage of that by fouling him off the ball going, trying to leave the Lakers with empty possessions. The Nets began the tactic leading, and seemingly with momentum. However, opting to foul Howard slowed down the game and shifted the momentum in the Lakers favor. The game turned into a half court match and, albeit ironically, turned into a matter of guys other than Dwight making free throws.
- Ron Artest had another fantastic night scoring the basketball. He scored 17 points on 13 shots, shooting four for nine from three point range and getting to the rim a few times. Ron’s three ball is starting to have a nice arch to it instead of it line-driving into the front of the rim and careening into the hands of quick guards dashing the other way for easy buckets. Instead, the shots are falling for Ron, especially the corner three. He’s turning into the guy that we saw in the preseason, which is going to be big for the Lakers if he can sustain this success. This is Ron’s third straight night where he’s shot the ball well from the field, and the fourth game in the last five. In fact, in the last five, Ron is averaging 16 and five while shooting 42 percent from three.
- Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez had a fantastic night. Kobe had a great first quarter, but was outscored by Lopez in the first (12), and Lopez was able to keep up the fantastic play the whole night. Lopez was five-for10 from around the rim, but was six of seven shooting long twos. He was able to keep the Nets in the game while Joe Johnson continued to struggle from the field. Johnson was six-for-16 from the field and still hasn’t been able to find his rhythm this season.
In the end, it’s the Lakers’ third consecutive win and the first in the D’Antoni era. It wasn’t mentioned above, but Pau also had a decent game with a ho-hum 17 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. As it will continue to be, the starting unit carried the load and the bench did just enough to not let things get out of hand. The Lakers will fly to Sacramento tonight for a match up with the Kings tomorrow.