Kobe Bryant missed a critical free throw that would have tied the game with seconds remaining as the Lakers fell to the New Jersey Nets 102-100. L.A. led by 12 points at halftime before being outscored 35-23 in the third quarter. The team appeared to regain its focus with under three minutes to go, assisted by Kobe’s sudden hot streak. But, in the end, the rally was too little, too late for the Lake Show.
Vladimir Radmanovic-starting at power forward in place of the usual Ronny Turiaf-had a forgettable night, going 0 for 10 from the field and missing a potential game tying shot at the buzzer after New Jersey’s Nachbar missed the second of two free throws. Coach Jackson said that the final play was not designed exclusively for Kobe as they were actually hoping to use Bryant a decoy to allow Andrew Bynum to get the ball.
Richard Jefferson continued his impressive play to start the season for the Nets, chipping in 27 points to go along with Vince Carter’s 19 and Jason Kidd’s double-double (15 points, 14 assists). The Nets took over the game in the third quarter as the Lakers seemed to lose most of the energy that built them their lead. Jackson said, “It was a matter of energy and a matter of sustaining effort,” both of which the team was unable to accomplish tonight. Don’t blame fatigue though as both Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom said that jet-lag was no excuse for losing a game they were clearly in control of at one point.
Jackson also cited the team’s inability to control tempo and a surplus of turnovers in the second half as key factors contributing to the loss. According to Jackson, the team has not had an official practice in over a week and a half which might help to explain why they did not appear as crisp in tonight’s loss. The Lakers coach also singled out the team’s bench-one of the Lakers’ biggest success stories thus far-for failing to come through in the third quarter when the team needed a spark. Give credit to New Jersey’s defense too though as they did an admirable job keeping Kobe in check until the waning moments of the game, limiting him to 7 of 21 shooting.
On the bright side for the Lakers, Bynum returned to form after a sub-par outing in Boston, grabbing 13 rebounds to go along with 12 points and three blocks. Derek Fisher also performed well, scoring 20 points and making several timely shots down the stretch. Trevor Ariza also made his Lakers debut, making his only shot attempt.
Next up for the Lakers are the young Seattle Supersonics on Tuesday night as the team tries to quickly wash the bad taste from tonight’s loss out of their mouths.