LOS ANGELES – This was as formidable a backcourt that the Lakers have faced this year and the New Jersey tandem of Vince Carter and Devin Harris, the highest-scoring guard corps in the NBA, did inflict some early damage against the sometimes flimsy Lakers’ defense.
Harris scored 16 of his 21 points in the first half, but Carter, the seven-time All-Star, added only three to his 11-point first-half total. Rookie center Brook Lopez escaped for 17 points.
But otherwise, the Lakers clamped the lid shut on the Nets’ offense, which ranked sixth in the league in scoring. New Jersey is 5-0 when it scores 100 points. And once the Lakers’ offense revved up in the third quarter, the Nets were road kill.
In stretching their winning streak to five consecutive games, the Lakers boosted their NBA-best record to 12-1. The 27-point margin of victory marked the third time that the Lakers have trampled an opponent by more than 20 points. Pau Gasol’s game-high 26 points paced the Lakers.
“I thought we played a stellar second half,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “The first half was like a feeling each other out, as a team. We had a hard time stopping the penetration and they shot the ball well. But we got our defense in order.”
Whom did they lose to, again? Oh yeah, the Detroit Pistons. That loss, which occurred 12 days ago, seems ages ago, as the Lakers have run through Chicago, Phoenix, Denver, Sacramento and now New Jersey since then.
But aside from Denver and Phoenix, none of the other teams confronted the Lakers with a winning record.
Bryant slogged through a horrendous first-half shooting performance in which he made 1 of 9 field-goal tries. He did have four assists, however and none of the Lakers’ six turnovers. Bryant finished with an awful shooting night, making only 5 of 17 shots, and finished with a season-low 12 points.
But with Gasol and four other Lakers scoring in double figures, Bryant’s off shooting night easily was absorbed. Jackson lauded the slack being taken up.
“I think it’s a healthy sign,” he said, “but you want Kobe shooting the ball well and (having) good games, obviously. That’s the focal part of our offense, to get things through him and have him be the threat that everyone has to overplay.”
Bryant’s previous low was 16 points, scored nearly a month ago, in the second game of the season against the Clippers.