Before the game Phil Jackson was asked to explain the reason why the Lakers were losing left and right lately.
"We’re not finishing games," Jackson said. "We’re not finishing quarters. Those two things in itself spell that."
Los Angeles followed the same "formula for losing," as Jackson calls it, in the third quarter as it squandered a 12-point lead all the way down to two by the time they were heading into the fourth.
The malaise extended into the early part of the final period when the Nets went up by six.
And then something clicked.
The Lakers used an 8-0 run with less than three minutes remaining in the fourth to break open a tied game.
Pau Gasol, who was just 4-of-16 from the field through the first three quarters, made two aggressive plays at the rim on offense getting fouled on the first (and making 1-of-2 free throws) and getting a layup on the second.
Kobe Bryant moved from scorer to facilitator, setting Gasol up with the layup and then Lamar Odom up with a dunk and Odom finished the flurry with a 3-pointer off a Derek Fisher feed to seal it.
"We had to turn it up if we wanted to win the game," Gasol said. "We weren’t playing as sharp as we needed to, we let them come back in the game a couple times. It was just a point of, it’s time to go now or we might lose this game."
An 0-2 start to the road trip would have been disastrous, especially after that close win against the Clippers was supposedly the thing that snapped them back to attention.
"We were better," Jackson said. "We had some things happen for us."
They did it on both ends too, underscoring their offensive execution with improved defense as they held the Nets to 10-of-30 shooting in the fourth.
"That’s the story of our last 10 or 15 games – having leads and losing it, not playing up to our potential ... We can play a lot better than what we did today," Odom said. "We got to get through this lackadaisical spell that we’re in right now."
Jackson felt that part of Gasol's struggles Sunday had to do with the officials swallowing their whistles when it came to the Spaniard.
"I just think it’s been kind of a, ‘Just go out and beat up Pau’ type of philosophy," Jackson said. "Don’t let him have anything easy, stay on his body and rough him up as much as you can. Referees are just going along with it. Everybody is just doing it, wearing him out and trying to be physical with him all the time. He gets a little frustrated with it but he’s got to get a mental attitude towards that of, ‘I’m going to have to take care of business on my own if the referees aren’t.’"
The Lakers got their first look at former teammate Jordan Farmar in a Nets uniform. He had eight points on 3-of-9 shooting and three rebounds in 23 minutes of playing time. His Laker replacement Steve Blake had four points on 1-of-3 shooting and five rebounds in 23 minutes for L.A.
Farmar went out to dinner with Luke Walton on Saturday and several Lakers sought him out to catch up on the court before the game.
"You don’t want to get caught up in doing too much playing against your old team," said Odom, who added that Farmar was jumping the Lakers plays on defense from knowing the triangle so well. "I think he did a great job letting the game come to him. I can tell he’s matured. He’s gotten better."
PJax loves taking little jabs at his players and he got L.O. pretty good this time around.
When asked why he felt comfortable playing Odom early on in the fourth quarter even though he had five fouls and was in danger of fouling out, Jackson said, "Lamar wasn’t playing any defense anyway so I knew he wouldn’t get his sixth foul, unless it was by accident."
Odom was told about the barb in the locker room after the game and laid on sarcasm as thick as the phone book when offering his retort.
"Yeah, that’s my new thing is like not to play defense so I just want more points," said Odom, generally known as the most selfless player on the team. "Phil knows that right now, I’m about me and I have to stay on the court because I have to score. I need the ball."
It was a bit of a homecoming for Lakers rookies Derrick Caracter (Fanwood, N.J.) and Devin Ebanks (Queens, N.Y.) and Jackson awarded the pair with some spot playing time. Caracter had two points and two rebounds in six minutes and Ebanks swished the only shot he took in five minutes of action.
The Lakers veterans made sure to keep the young guys' egos in check with them receiving extra attention from family and friends in the stands.
Odom was asked what he told Caracter about playing in front of a home crowd for the first time.
"Get my bag. Hurry up. Make it snappy," Odom said with a smile.
The Lakers played the Nets at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. for the first time since the team moved out of the Izod Center over the summer.
Everybody is still getting used to the new surroundings.
"It’s tough," Bryant said. "My driver didn’t know where the hell he was going. He took me to the other arena. If it was tough for him, I’m sure it’s tough for the players."
The 1 p.m. ET tip-off felt like 10 a.m. to the team although Jackson didn't mind it.
"We like it," Jackson said. "We like the day games. I mean, the coaching staff does. All the players were asleep on the bus on the way over."
The Lakers finish their road trip in Toronto on Sunday with another 10 a.m. PT start.
Quotes of the night day: "I just think we haven’t put our energies into it the way we’re supposed to. It’s no ho-hum, but it’s ho-ho. It’s Christmas time and so we’re kind of going through the Christmas holidays here, making everybody happy and bringing them gifts on the road." -- Lakers head coach Phil Jackson on the team losing five out of its last nine games and struggling against the 6-18 Nets.
"Kobe Bryant, that's the difference." -- Nets head coach Avery Johnson on the game. Bryant finished with 32 points, four rebounds, six assists and four steals.
Stats of the night day: The Nets outscored the Lakers 58-32 in the paint and outrebounded them 45-42 ... Gasol played 42 minutes, passing the 40-minute plateau for the fourth straight game and eighth time in the last 10 games ... Ron Artest continued his abysmal offense, scoring just two points on 1-of-7 shooting. Artest, who famously scored 20 points in Game 7 of the Finals, has just 26 total points in his last six games combined.