The Skinny: The Lakers opened the game with a 10-0 run and played great defense, which forced the Nets into four early turnovers. Avery Johnson called a timeout, and Brooklyn responded with an 11-2 run of their own to make it a game. Kobe Bryant shot 5-of-6 from the field for 11 points in the first quarter, while Brook Lopez continued his dominance of the opening quarter, scoring 12 points in the first. The Nets trailed by six after one.
C.J. Watson opened the second quarter with back-to-back three-pointers to tie the game, and Joe Johnson hit on back-to-back field goals, giving the Nets their first lead of the game. Both teams played fast-paced basketball throughout the second, but Deron Williams completely took over the game in the final minutes of the first half, finishing with 16 points and five assists. Four Lakers – Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace – scored in double figures in the opening half, though the Nets led by a point at the break.
Howard notched a double-double by the opening minutes of the third quarter, but the Nets managed to maintain their lead for most of the quarter. Brooklyn began missing many open looks, especially from three-point range, which allowed the Lakers to lead by three after three quarters.
The Nets regained the lead as part of an 8-0 run midway through the fourth quarter. Howard picked up his fifth foul at the 5:22 mark but remained in the game. Avery Johnson used the strategy of sending Howard to the free-throw line where he struggled all game. The game stayed tight down the stretch, but the Lakers established a three-point lead in the final minute. Joe Johnson hit a big shot in the paint to cut the deficit to one, but Bryant hit two free throws at the other end. Williams followed with two free throws. On the ensuing possession, the Nets opted to try for a steal rather than a foul but were unsuccessful. Bryant hit two more free throws giving the Lakers a three-point lead with 4.8 seconds to go. Williams missed a deep three that would have tied it to end the game.
High Scorers: Bryant led all scorers with 25 points on 8-of-15 shooting. Lopez led the way for the Nets with 23 points on 11-of-18 shooting.
Key Stats: The Nets shot only 7-of-23 in the third quarter. The Lakers struggled at the free-throw line all night, shooting 19-of-37 (51 percent).
Who Was Hot: Howard finished with 23 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks. Gasol also managed a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Williams scored 22 points and dished out 10 assists for his fourth double-double of the season.
Who Was Not: After shooting 6-of-10 from three-point range in the first half, the Nets made just one of their 12 attempts from downtown in the second half. Howard was a paltry 7-of-19 from the free-throw line in this one.
Fun Fact: The Nets have now lost nine straight games to the Lakers dating back to Feb. 5, 2008. Howard now owns an 11-1 career mark against Lopez. The loss marks the first time this season that the Nets did not win when Lopez scored at least 10 points in the first quarter.
The stars were certainly out tonight in Los Angeles as all the big names for both teams played well.
After the bad start, the Nets hung in with the Lakers all game. Though they didn’t get the win, the team proved to itself that it can hang around with one of the top teams in the NBA.
Mike D’Antoni earned a victory in his Lakers’ coaching debut, but his team’s poor free-throw shooting almost cost him the game.
Lopez had a strong game going up against Howard. The two were almost traded for each other this past summer.
The third quarter has plagued the Nets all season. Brooklyn managed just 16 points in the third. With the game on the line in the fourth, Bryant once again came through, hitting clutch free throws to put the game out of reach.
This would have been a great win, but overall it was a solid effort from Avery Johnson’s bunch. The Nets winning streak ends at five.
Brooklyn (6-3) closes out its three-game west coast road trip Wednesday night against the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena. The 10:30 p.m. EST game will be televised on the YES Network.
Jim Mancari is a Contributor to SNYNets.com. Follow him on Twitter @JMMancari.