Nets stumble down stretch in loss to Lakers
By Larry Fleisher
Brook Lopez had one of his best games of the season, but when the Nets needed him on both ends, the first time All-Star could not quite get it done.
Lopez scored 12 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter and got a crowd-pleasing block on Kobe Bryant. But he also hoisted up an air ball on a jumper and was not be able to provide help defense on a dunk by Bryant with 2:45 remaining and a layup by the superstar a minute later.
“I was surprised the lane was so wide open,” Bryant said. “It parted like the Red Sea. I was feeling like Moses.”
What Lopez and the rest of the Nets were unable to do down the stretch proved to be their downfall in a difficult, 92-83, loss to the Lakers. They were outscored 10-0 over the final 2 1/2 minutes and when it was over, Lopez was clearly disappointed in what he could not achieve in helping the Nets close it out.
“I feel like the responsibility is on my self,” Lopez said. “I made poor decisions offensively and didn’t finish well and defensively, I didn’t guard the pick-and-roll very well.”
Lopez had his second 30-point game of the season and his 10th double-double but it was hardly a model of efficiency, especially against a team missing key frontcourt players Dwight Howard (shoulder) and Metta World Peace (suspension). He was 4-of-10 in the fourth quarter, missing three jump shots from 10 feet or closer.
Overall, Lopez took a season-high 25 shots and made only 11 while the Nets shot 34.8 percent and turned the ball over 17 times.
“I don’t think we wasted an effort from anybody,” Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said. “The team wins and the team loses. There was nobody that was so good that they were immune from being a big part of why we lost. There was no one that’s so bad that should take the blame for losing this game. Collectively we all made mistakes on both ends of the floor, players and coaches.”
“When [Lopez is] going like that, it’s kind of hard to go away from him,” said point guard Deron Williams, who scored 11 of his 15 points in the first quarter.
Even though Lopez had the better individual game, it was Bryant and the Lakers getting the best of the Nets again. Bryant scored 21 points as the Lakers knocked off the Nets for the 10th consecutive time.
Like Lopez, Bryant was not efficient. He made 9-of-24 shots while Gerald Wallace was Brooklyn’s primary defender on him.
Carlesimo believed Wallace did decently but the forward was particularly hard on himself for going 3-for-10 and being unable to stop Bryant in crunch time.
“I take full responsibility because I’ve got to make those shots,” Wallace said. “Kobe made two big shots in the end. You know he’s a good shooter and what you want to do is try and force him to put the ball floor and use inside help and he went by me twice. That has nothing to do with my teammates. That’s totally on me.”
But it’s not like the Nets didn’t have a shot at their first win over the Lakers in exactly five years. They had an 83-82 lead after Lopez got off a tough jumper over Earl Clark and converted the subsequent foul shot with 2:33 to play. That came nearly three minutes after Lopez blocked Bryant’s drive, a play that protected a 77-76 edge.
The Nets started the game by making nine of their first 17 shots and then missed 22 of their next 28, falling behind 49-40 at the half.
“We settled for jump shots,” Wallace said. “We didn’t attack the rim. We didn’t put the pressure on them. We knew they were shorthanded and didn’t force the issue.”
The Nets began the third quarter by falling into a 13-point deficit and battled back, taking a 60-59 lead on Wallace’s put-back of his own miss with 3:53 remaining and a 63-62 edge on a free throw by Williams with 2:07 remaining, but could not get the lead and trailed 67-64 entering the fourth.
Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.