The Lakers launched their black jerseys in Brooklyn. It affected their mood. Or perhaps they knew they had beaten the Nets ten straight times. Whatever the reason they came out inspired, draining threes, moving on defense, rotating without the ball. They took advantage of a sluggish Nets team that was joyless and uninspired. The Lakers had layups, wide open shots and great chemistry. They played with an infectious energy in contrast to the Nets who played as if they ate Thanksgiving dinner five minutes before the game started. At the end of the first quarter the Lakers were shooting 65% and had a 16 point lead.
In the second quarter Jordan Farmar continued his stretch of efficient play. He ran his team with poise and confidence as he drained threes, found open teammates, trapped the ball creating turnovers and made life miserable for the Nets who he used to play for. The Lakers went on a 18-0 run. They had a 27 point lead with eight minutes left in the quarter. But the Nets offense and defense woke up from their nap as they depended on Joe Johnson who willed them back into the game with his skill and toughness. The lead was 21, then 19, then 16. The Lakers were porous in the lane and Andray Blatche went to the rim several times, finishing on post ups or getting fouled. The Nets went on a 15-0 run and cut the lead. An offense dependent on threes is going to have highs and lows. With two minutes left in the quarter the lead was 12. Uh-oh. The 65% shooting dwindled down to 33%. At the end of the first half the Lakers were up by fourteen, 54-40. The Lakers scored 6 points in the last 7 minutes.
After halftime Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett showed flashes of why this Nets team had so much potential, at least on paper. They made 3 of their first 4 shots and the lead was down to 11. But Jordan Hill was ferocious on the defensive boards pulling down missed Nets jumpers, Pau Gasol continued his consistent shooting and a Steve Blake outlet pass to Nick Young with 7 minutes left in the quarter had the lead restored at 13, putting an end to the Nets 7-0 run. The Nets continued to get good shots around the rim- sound familiar?- and Andray Blatche cut the lead to single digits. A lucky 3 pointer from Nick Young followed by a driving layup had the Lakers up by 10. But an Alan Anderson uncontested drive to the basket followed by an Andray Blatche foul changed the momentum of the game for good. The Lakers 27 point lead was down to 8. Paul Pierce was back to being Paul Pierce even though he went 4-17 for the game. He was spirited and animated, a reminder of his greatness as a Celtic, and he carried the emotional pulse of the Nets team for the last three minutes, willing every offensive possession, infusing his team with fearlessness. But a Nick Young deep three with a minute left had the lead at 10. The quarter ended with the Lakers up by nine, 77-68.
The 4th quarter started with both teams trading three point shots. Paul Pierce’s toughness and desperation, and the Lakers unwillingness to match it had the game at six points with 10 minutes left. By the time Pierce went to the line with 8 minutes left it was a six point lead and the Lakers seemed bewildered and anxious. Unable to hit threes they are in no man’s land, no adjustments to be made, they just do not have any competent mid range shooters and even if they did the curse of the D’Antoni offense would bury whoever that may be. At this point the Lakers looked tired which happens to a jump shooting team on a second night of a back to back. With 7 minutes left the lead was four and as bad as the Nets looked early, they were suddenly inspired. By now, the Lakers body language looked like they did not believe they could win. A fast break turned into a charge. Rebounds slipped off their fingers. Teltovich, the sharpshooter-anyone read the scouting report?- had 14 points in the quarter and at the two minute mark it was a tied game with no Laker able to do anything on offense but jack up bad perimeter shots. Even when they stopped the Nets and got a rebound they could not convert it into points. A Wesley Johnson steal with 1:33 gave the Lakers a 2 point lead, 94-92. Joe Johnson missed an 8 foot shot in the lane. Nick Young drove to the basket and suffered damage to his finger when Paul Pierce slammed it on the rim. The shot missed. At the other end, Kevin Garnett, who looks like an old player, missed a fourteen foot shot. Gasol grabbed the rebound. With 18 seconds left it was still 94-92 Lakers and they had the ball. Steve Blake was fouled with 17 seconds left and made one of two for a Laker three point lead. With a second left Paul Pierce missed an open three and the Lakers escaped with a much needed road victory.
Player of the Game- Nick Young. 26 points. Hit threes, two’s, passed the ball. The one player the Nets could not stop. Suffered a wrist injury towards the end of the fourth quarter.
#Vino- Pau Gasol. 9-17. 21 points, 8 rebounds, key shots and rebounds down the stretch.
He said WHAT?- “I started coaching and that hurt us.”- Mike D’Antoni. “It is not easy to stay ahead.”- Steve Blake. “I saw the passing lane. It was a risky play, a gamble.”- Wes Johnson. “We have guys that are going to fight.”- Jordan Farmar.
Highlight(s) of the Night: Outlet pass from Blake to Nick Young- layup. Wesley Johnson reverse dunk on Paul Pierce. Wesley Johnson in the passing lane, steal off of Joe Johnson- dunk.
The Kobe System- Nick Young. Hit shots from everywhere, confident, beating Joe Johnson off the dribble, step backs on Anthony Anderson, pull up jumpers. He made all of his free throws.
Remember This – The Nets played most of the game as if they are in grief. They are willed by Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce but the rest of the team is missing something. East coast version of the 2012 Lakers.