From Kevin Ding, OC Register: Lakers coach Phil Jackson has been emphasizing the need for the Lakers to finish quarters and games better. On Sunday, they closed the first two quarters impressively in New Jersey but staggered late in the third to leave a close game. That set up the fourth quarter, when they tapped back into the execution of champions and pulled away from the Nets for a 99-92 victory. “Kobe Bryant, that’s the difference,” Nets coach Avery Johnson said. “They threw him the ball, and he made some plays. He beat some of our coverages … he’s a great closer.”
From Kevin Ding, OC Register: Kobe Bryant always takes the center spot in the row of Lakers for the pregame national anthem, standing front and center on the free-throw line. Directly across from Bryant on Sunday afternoon, anchored to the midpoint of the opposite free-throw line, was Jordan Farmar. With his new team, the New Jersey Nets, Farmar has chosen that same spot. And in a move quite similar to Bryant’s switch to No. 24, Farmar is wearing No. 2 for the Nets – signifying a fresh second phase in Farmar’s career. Increasingly in recent years within the Lakers’ circle, there was grumbling that Farmar fashioned himself too much like Bryant than like understated contributor Derek Fisher, which became a problem.
From Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Like his mates in general, Kobe experienced his share of early struggles uniting ball and net. At the half, Bryant was sitting on 7 points (one-for-six shooting), with four turnovers against just two assists. I’m not sure what was in the halftime Gatorade and orange slices, but the second half was an entirely different affair for the Mamba. Kobe racked 25 points over the final 24 minutes, canning eight of 13 attempts from the floor. Beyond his effectiveness filling up a bucket, Bryant was often brilliant setting up his teammates for success out of double teams. The floor was surveyed with patience, Kobe found the cutter, then created opportunity. During a critical stretch deep in the fourth frame, six points were netted by Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, all due to Kobe’s table-setting.
From Dave McMenamin, Land O’ Lakers: Before the game Phil Jackson was asked to explain the reason why the Lakers were losing left and right lately. “We’re not finishing games,” Jackson said. “We’re not finishing quarters. Those two things in itself spell that.” Los Angeles followed the same “formula for losing,” as Jackson calls it, in the third quarter as it squandered a 12-point lead all the way down to two by the time they were heading into the fourth. The malaise extended into the early part of the final period when the Nets went up by six. And then something clicked. The Lakers used an 8-0 run with less than three minutes remaining in the fourth to break open a tied game. Pau Gasol, who was just 4-of-16 from the field through the first three quarters, made two aggressive plays at the rim on offense getting fouled on the first (and making 1-of-2 free throws) and getting a layup on the second.
From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: I have two pieces of good news for you. First, the Lakers won today. It was a bit of a struggle, and the outcome was in doubt until the final minutes, but the champs juuust managed to avoid core meltdown by quashing the Nets, 99 to 92. Which brings me to my second piece of good news: the Lakers don’t have to visit New Jersey again until sometime next season. No disrespect to the Garden State, which is a lovely place to visit if you’re into diner food or seeing tons of cars parked on front lawns alongside broken household appliances, but the Nets just aren’t the type of opponent to bring out the Lakers’ peak form. Granted, exactly what that peak form looks like at the moment is open to argument. But even in their shorthanded, fatigue- and ennui-ridden state, the purp and yellow should be capable of a better showing than what we saw today.
From Mark Medina, LA Times: The Lakers used to walk out of their locker room and casually wander into 110 points a night, no problem. But the last few weeks? Big problem. They’ve failed to break 100 in seven of their last nine games, the exceptions coming against Sacramento and Washington, teams whose season-long slogans might as well be “Defense = afterthought.” The Lakers’ shooting has dipped steadily, be it Kobe Bryant or Pau Gasol, who never seem to shoot well on the same night. On top of it, the Lakers are foundering with a 6-5 road record, well below the 8-1 marks of Western Conference front-runners San Antonio and Dallas. “I’m really concerned,” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said Friday, pausing for dramatic effect. “But I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.”
From Dave McMenamin, ESPNLA: Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum’s highly anticipated return to the court could be pushed back from the Tuesday date against the Washington Wizards he had been eyeing. And you can blame it on New York City traffic. The Lakers flew from Chicago to New York on Saturday morning with an afternoon practice scheduled at Sports Club L.A. in New York’s Upper East Side. When the bus ride from the airport to the hotel — that the team figured would take 30 minutes — ticked past an hour and a half, Lakers head coach Phil Jackson decided to cancel practice.
From Dave McMenamin, ESPNLA: In June 1998, 12-year-old Shannon Brown — living in Maywood, Ill., 10 miles west of downtown Chicago — was dreaming his future. When he turned on the television, he saw the Chicago Bulls running toward their sixth NBA championship with his favorite player, Michael Jordan, taking the shots and coach Phil Jackson calling the plays. When he turned on the radio, he heard the No. 1 single, “The Boy is Mine,” a catchy R&B duet featuring Brandy, the prom date of another one of his favorite players, Kobe Bryant, and Monica, a 17-year old vocalist just starting to hit the big time. Now, 12 years later, he is living the dream: MJ’s coach has become his coach, Brandy’s date has become his teammate and Monica has become his fiancée. The Lakers’ shooting guard is doing something right.
From Mark Hale, NY Post: Avery Johnson sees Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan as neck-and-neck when it comes to greatness. “[Bryant] could arguably be 1. In some polls, he’ll be 2,” the Nets coach said yesterday about the players he has seen since he entered the NBA in 1988. “He could be 1-A and Jordan can be 1-B or Jordan, some polls they’ll be flipped. “Fortunately I had a chance to play against both of them and now played and coached against Kobe. And boy, sometimes they’re looking like the same player.” Lest there’s any doubt, Bryant remains the planet’s best player, even with LeBron James having won consecutive MVP awards. The Lakers superstar will be at the Prudential Center this afternoon to face the Nets, who will try to hold Bryant down, knock off the two-time defending champs and stop their own six-game skid.