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Sunday, December 20, 2009
Lakers 103, Nets 84: Yes, beating New Jersey counts as a whole win


Let's be honest, here; New Jersey basically lost their opportunity to win Saturday night's tussle with the

AP/Bill Kostroun
Kobe Bryant uses a screen from Pau Gasol against the New Jersey Nets, Dec. 19, 2009.



Lakers once LA's team bus managed to work through blizzard conditions on the east coast and arrive from New York City at Izod Center. Unconfirmed reports had Nets coach/GM Kiki Vandeweghe dispatching lightly-used reserves Keyon Dooling and Terrence Williams to pile snow on as many cleared roads as they could find leading to the arena just to make it tough, and who could blame him?

It was a matchup of NBA titans vs. 125 pound weaklings. Literally nothing had to give. And against a team as wretched as New Jersey- they entered with a robust 2-25 mark- it can be said in general terms that anything interesting or meaningful coming out of the evening probably means something went wrong.  Sure enough, the 103-84 final score was certainly comfortable enough for the Lakers, though it wasn't all pretty. Initially, it looked like the expected blowout would come quickly. The Lakers built up an eight point lead at the end of the first quarter, and were up by 10 after a Kobe Bryant triple with 5:33 to go in the half. From there, sloppiness, poor work against New Jersey's zone, and some inspired (it's all relative) play from the home team helped fuel a 16-4 run from the Nets heading into the break, a 48-46 Nets lead giving life to those hoping to see The Greatest Regular Season Upset In History.

There were some mitigating circumstances. Foul trouble was an issue, and combined with a game offering a chance for little used reserves to get a little burn, Phil Jackson played everyone on the bench save Sasha Vujacic over the first 24 minutes. (I'm not sure Adam Morrison knew he was even allowed to take off his sweats in the first quarter, but there he was, getting some early playing time.)



Fortunately, the 17 point second quarter was, to employ a modified Sick Boy, a blip on an otherwise upward trajectory. The Lakers again hit the gas in the third. Kobe, who finished with 29 points on 12-23 from the floor, scored LA's first six points of the frame, and Derek Fisher hit two big threes in the first five minutes. Defensively, LA clamped down, holding New Jersey to 16 points. The fourth wasn't much better for the home team, as the Nets scored only 20. All in all, it was a 56-36 second half for the Lakers, giving the final score a look everyone expected.

Notes:

The Lakers now head to Detroit for a matchup against the hobbled Pistons Sunday evening (3 pm PT, KCAL).

--Brian Kamenetzky