Poor New Jersey.
Losing their first 16 game wasn’t fun, and seeing their head coach get fired on Sunday morning must not have inspired a lot of smiles either.
But facing a Lakers’ team that had beaten five straight opponents by double digits was just kicking the ol’ dead horse, as L.A.’s dominant 106-87 performance sent the Nets to their NBA-record-tying* 17th-straight loss to open the season.
* The 1988-89 Heat and 1998-99 Clippers both began 0-17.
“They’re the defending champs for a reason,” said Nets guard Chris Douglas-Roberts. “They have an All-Star cast … a lot of guys who are superstars. It’s a challenge.”
To their credit, the purple and gold didn’t take victory as a foregone conclusion, instead bursting through the first quarter gates like a lion into a field of lambs behind Kobe Bryant’s aggressive play. After N.J. managed an 8-5 opening, L.A. reeled off a 22-7 run featuring 13 points from Bryant and some tough team defense to put the game out of reach before it really got started.
“The defense is getting better and better,” said Bryant. “We’re working really, really hard at it. Energy has been consistent.”
It was, and things wouldn’t get closer; in fact, the second half could be summed up in these words, by 710 ESPN’s Andrew Siciliano on Twitter: “Nets hit back to back 3′s…still down 30.”
Bryant led the way with 30 points, eight boards and seven assists in three quarters, while Pau Gasol pitched in 20 points, nine rebounds and seven helpers for good measure. Eleven Lakers scored, including 15 off the bench from Jordan Farmar, while the team shot an impressive 13-for-25 from three (52 percent).
While New Jersey’s record speaks to its lack of talent, it’s not like they’re the only team L.A. has blown out of late. Take a look at the last six Lakers games:
Nov. 17 vs Detroit: Lakers 106, Pistons 93
Nov. 19 vs Chicago: Lakers 108, Bulls 93
Nov. 22 vs OKC: Lakers 101, Thunder 85
Nov. 24 vs NYK: Lakers 100, Knicks 90
Nov. 28 @ G.S.: Lakers 130, Warriors 97
Nov. 29 vs. NJN: Lakers 106, Nets 87
That’s a total of 651-454, an average score of 108.5-90.8.
Different Lakers had different theories regarding their recent dominance.
“We’re starting to play the right way,” said Jordan Farmar. “We have so much depth.”
“Our defense is playing well,” offered Lamar Odom. “We’re not giving up too many offensive rebounds.”
Talent, length, coaching, confidence, depth … take your pick.
Meanwhile, the Nets will try to avoid the distinction of owning the league’s worst start by themselves against Dallas at home on Dec. 2, while the Lakers look to continue their impressive run when New Orleans (minus Chris Paul) comes to L.A. on Tuesday.
Until then, your numbers:
5 Three-pointers made by Kobe Bryant in eight attempts, for 15 of his 30 total points.
7 Three-pointers Bryant had made heading into the game. In the process, Bryant improved his three-point percentage from 20 percent to nearly 28 percent.
11 Lakers players who scored at least one basket.
34 L.A.’s biggest lead of the night. New Jersey led 8-5, then trailed for the rest of the game.
39.1 Ron Artest’s three-point percentage after he connected on 2-of-3 attempts. He’s now made at least two threes in five straight games.
52 All-time wins for the Lakers against the Nets, to just 19 losses.