Fourth quarter dooms Nets in loss to Lakers
Brook Lopez had 30 points and 11 rebounds for Brooklyn (28-20) and Deron Williams chipped in 15 and six assists, but it wasn't enough to stop a depleted Lakers team that was playing without the injured Dwight Howard and the suspended Metta World Peace.
With the win, Los Angeles (23-26) has now won 10 straight games against the Nets dating back to February 2008, and they also put the first blemish on what had been a perfect 17-0 record for Brooklyn against sub.-500 teams this season.
"Even without Dwight (Howard) and Metta (World Peace), I said before the game, their starting lineup is still Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Antawn Jamison…that's a good basketball team," Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said after the game. "We got beat by a good basketball team who played better than we did. Do I like playing them without those guys, as opposed to with them? Absolutely, and you can say we didn't take advantage of it, but we just got outplayed by the guys that were here."
The second Nets-Lakers clash of 2012-13 was a game of runs, but in the end, it was the Lakers who had the hammer in that department. Brooklyn went first, finishing the first quarter on a 10-0 run to take a 24-18 lead, but Los Angeles used a 31-point second quarter to roar back and take a 49-40 advantage at the break. That edge surged to 13 early in the third, but the Nets fired back with a 21-9 run to take the lead, and eventually trailed by just three with 12 minutes to go.
The turning point then came with just over four minutes to go and Brooklyn up one, as Pau Gasol appeared to injure himself while trying to contest a shot by Brook Lopez in the paint; Gasol stayed in after being down for a few minutes, but would leave the game 30 seconds later with what was later diagnosed as a plantar fascia strain in his right foot.
Once that happened, it looked like a streaking Lopez and the Nets could take over inside, but instead it truly became the "Lake Show" in Brooklyn. Los Angeles outscored the Nets 14-5 in the final 3:52, with Brooklyn making just two field goals on eight attempts while committing two costly turnovers, one goaltend, and four personal fouls.
"When we got good shots, we weren't able to finish, and they executed better in the endgame as they had most of the night," Carlesimo said of the Nets' finishing swoon. "Our spacing was a major problem too. I thought in the first and third quarters we played with so much more passion; I think we had some looks down the stretch (that didn't convert), but we compounded it by not getting stops at the other end.
Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash were the catalysts for that final Lakers run, with Bryant finally shrugging off a solid defensive effort by Gerald Wallace thanks to two straight strong drives and Nash adding two assists and four made free throws down the stretch.
"He's a great player and did a great job; if you told me before the game that Kobe was going to go 9-for-24 with four assists, I'd have taken it no questions asked," Carlesimo said. "I thought the job Gerald (Wallace) did on Kobe was exceptional; all you can do is make a player like that work, and he did that. But we made some repeated mistakes on the same play, and we didn't play well enough to win the game."
Overall, Brooklyn shot just 35 percent and committed 16 turnovers, and Carlesimo credited D'Antoni's defenses and the team's aggression despite a short bench for pressuring the Nets all night.
"We did miss some good shots, some open shots, but we also had some guys taking shots that they wanted us to take," Carlesimo said. "They couldn't afford foul trouble with their short bench, and they chose by how they defended who they were going to take their chances with. … We had some good looks, but we had more times where we didn't execute well enough offensively to get the kind of looks we needed to win."
One of the issues Carlesimo took responsibility for was the performance, or perhaps lack thereof, from the bench. Kris Humphries led that unit with four points and nine rebounds in 21 minutes – his highest output in all three categories in the last six games – but the reserves scored just 14 points in a little over 62 minutes, nearly half of which came in the dismal second quarter.
The crew was a little short-handed after the first half, as MarShon Brooks (sprained ankle) played all three of his minutes in the first quarter and Andray Blatche (illness) played all five of his in the second, and Carlesimo gave them credit while taking responsibility for the rotational changes.
"The second quarter really hurt us, but in fairness to our guys, we had a couple of guys who were sick or hurting and couldn't practice yesterday, but they played like that," Carlesimo said, "and in retrospect, maybe it would have been better not to put them out there. We didn't get off to a good start, and just in general, our offensive execution wasn't good enough."
With now five games left before the All-Star break, the Nets head to the Motor City, where they will take on the Detroit Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Wednesday night. One player enters that game on the precipice of history, as Deron Williams is just one assist of 5,000 for his career; with his next helper, he'll become the 56th player in NBA history to reach that plateau.
Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES