Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Friday night home contest against the New Jersey Nets as the Lakers looked for their ninth win in 10 games since Andrew Bynum returned to the starting line up, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Nets: D. Harris, S. Graham, T. Outlaw, D. Favors, B. Lopez
12:00 With Kanye West’s “I’m Coming Home Again” blaring in the background over a video tribute, L.A. native Jordan Farmar came out to receive his championship ring from the 2010 season, a moment Farmar said he expected to be emotional. Lakers captains Bryant and Fisher met the former backup point guard at midcourt to hand off the hardware and exchanged warm embraces; later in the game, the Lakers planned a video for Sasha Vujacic, who’s averaging 27 minutes per game for the Nets.
6:24 The Nets are among the most deliberate teams in the NBA, scoring more than only one other squad, and here tried to slow things down as the teams exchanged half court sets. Two straight Bryant field goals gave the Lakers an early 10-8 edge despite poor shooting (4-for-12). Moments later, Vujacic checked in for the first time, playing opposite Ron Artest at the small forward position.
0:32.6 With the rest of L.A.’s offense stalling, Bryant took over scoring duties, making his fifth field goal in eight attempts with a beautiful reverse layup around Farmar, then adding two foul shots to tie the score at 22 and reach 13 points. Farmar responded with a pull-up jumper to put the Nets up two at the break, however, as Lakers not named Kobe made only 4-of-14 field goals, including Pau Gasol’s 1-for-5.
8:27 The start of the second quarter brought up memories of Lakers practices from the last two years, just at the end when everyone was exhausted, as Vujacic and Brown took turns missing long jumpers with the Nets holding onto a 28-24 advantage. Meanwhile, the Lakers had scored only 10 points in the paint, with Bynum, Gasol and Odom combining for only two points.
4:59 After missing his first four free throws and three field goals of the game, typifying L.A.’s slow start, Odom hit two foul shots out of a time out and then watched Artest nail an open three on the next possession to give the Lakers a 33-30 lead. Things had been sluggish to start, but the home team’s defensive energy had picked up, the offense coming in turn at the other end.
0:00 Behind four straight points from a previously quiet Gasol and Artest’s second triple of the half, the Lakers opened a nine-point lead late in the period. Farmar and Vujacic managed a bucket each against their former squad, however, cutting the margin to 45-40 at the first half break. Bryant’s 15 led all scorers, with Artest joining him in double figures with 10.
5:28 After a somewhat sluggish start to the second half in which Bynum picked up foul No. 4 and Brook Lopez reached a game-high 21 points, the Lakers went on a quick 7-0 run, capped by Gasol’s drop-in hook courtesy of Fisher’s entry pass, to match their biggest lead at nine (58-49).
3:47 Moments after checking in, Farmar hit a running layup off glass, then a pull-up three-pointer to reach nine points off the pine, bringing the Nets to within six after Bryant’s and-1 through Farmar (due to a transition crossmatch) in the post. That gave Bryant 21 points, while Gasol’s two foul shots on the next trip down got him to 16 points, 10 coming in the quarter.
0:01.0 Gasol’s 3rd block of the game protected LAL’s seven-point lead into the fourth quarter, though the Lakers were unable to push their advantage into double digits despite hanging around the nine-point mark for much of the period. New Jersey kept battling, getting 26 points through three from Lopez and Farmar’s nine off the bench to hang around.
9:18 Just after the Lakers opened their first double-digit lead of the game with a Brown jumper, Farmar answered with a triple to cut it back to seven. That gave the L.A. native 12 points, three more than Vujacic’s nine after the Slovenian hit two straight jumpers in the opening moments of the fourth.
4:31 The Nets again refused to go away — a familiar pattern with Lakers opponents — while going so far as to cut LAL’s lead to two on Vujacic’s triple (after he’d grabbed his own three-point miss), but the Lakers responded with an immediate 9-0 run to push their lead back into double-digits. Bryant’s and-1 capped the run, getting him to 27 points.
2:00 Odom struggled at the game’s onset, but was terrific in the final quarter in particular, putting together a two-minute stretch in which he hit a jumper, grabbed a board, hit a three, fed Artest for a wide-open layup with a pretty extra pass, and then hit 1-of-2 free throws to put the Lakers up 94-85. A few free throws later, and the Lakers had their seventh straight win. Stay tuned for postgame numbers…