In a game the Brooklyn Nets were favored to win, against a team four games below .500, a team missing Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace, a team that lost Pau Gasol midway through the fourth quarter, the Nets could not find a way to close out, getting stymied & stuffed by some combination of their own ineffectiveness and Kobe Bryant’s narrative.
Bryant, who shot a pedestrian 9-24 from the field, threw down an emphatic slam on Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries in the fourth quarter, and later scored on a twisting layup that helped catapult the Los Angeles Lakers to their 92-83 victory over the Brooklyn Nets in Brooklyn at Barclays Center AKA The Black House. After an and-one bucket by All-Star Center Brook Lopez gave him his second 30-point game of the season and the team a slim 83-82 margin with 2:33 left, the Nets did not score again as Los Angeles rattled off 10 points to seal the victory.
“I’m not encouraged by anything I saw tonight,” interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo said after the game, speaking both of himself and the roster.
In a game rife with defensive communications, each player seemed more than welcome to assume blame. Gerald Wallace maintained that he did a poor job allowing Kobe Bryant to get into the lane, even as he heard coach Carlesimo call his effort “exceptional.”
Lopez, the 30-point monster who added 11 rebounds and three blocks, seemed uninterested in discussing his own positive performance. Stone-faced and glassy-eyed at his locker, barely moving his gaze from straight in front of his face, Lopez beat himself up for his performance.
“Those last 2 1/2 minutes were about as bad I played on both ends of the floor all season,” Lopez monotoned. “I feel like the responsibility’s on myself. I made poor decisions offensively, didn’t finish well, and defensively didn’t guard the pick and roll very well. I let (Antawn Jamison) get to the basket easily, and (Earl Clark) get that pick and pop jumper. Really changed the way of the game.”
(Lopez called Antawn “Tawn,” but could not recall Earl Clark’s name.)
The Brooklyn Nets were supposed to “blitz” Los Angeles’s pick-and-pop play, meaning that Lopez was supposed to meet the ballhandler (usually Steve Nash) above the screen as he used it, cutting off his passing lane. Instead, Lopez “covered” four out of five times according to coach P.J. Carlesimo, meaning that he waited until the ballhandler dribbled around the screen got into the lane. This misplay by Lopez added up to quick points by Los Angeles, including one that gave Earl Clark a wide-open jumper and the Lakers a 5-point lead with 1:11 left.
Lopez, who played a season-high in 40 minutes in regulation tonight, refused to blame fatigue for his final miscues. “Just dumb plays on my part,” he said flatly. “Poor decisions.”