Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo only praised one of his players following the Nets' 92-83 loss to the Lakers on Tuesday.
And it wasn't Brook Lopez, who finished with a game-high 30 points and 11 rebounds.
No, the kind words were for Gerald Wallace.
"If you had said to me before the game, 'Kobe’s gonna go 9-for-24 with four assists, I would have taken it, no questions asked," Carlesimo said. "Don’t get me wrong, I’m not taking anything away from Kobe, but I thought the job Gerald did on Kobe was exceptional. All you can do is make a player that good work, and he did that."
Yet Wallace blamed himself for the loss after the game.
"I didn’t make shots -- I didn’t make the open shots when they were double-teaming Joe [Johnson] and Deron [Williams]," Wallace said. "I take full responsibility for this. I’ve gotta make those shots."
Yes, Wallace shot just 3-for-10 in the game, finishing with nine points. But the entire team struggled, shooting 31-for-89 (34.8 percent) on the night.
Johnson was 4-for-15, while Williams was 5-for-13. Even Lopez, who finished with that gaudy point total, shot only 11-for-25.
"[The Lakers] executed better in the end game. They executed better most of the night," Carlesimo said. "Our spacing was a major problem."
Still, the Nets had an 83-82 lead with 2:33 remaining in the game. But the Lakers finished the game on a 10-0 run, which began with a bucket by Antawn Jamison, followed by a driving layup by Bryant.
Bryant also drove the lane for an electrifying dunk to break an 80-80 tie a couple of possessions earlier.
"Kobe made two big shots down there, and that’s on me, too," Wallace said. "You know he’s a good shooter, you know what he wants to do. You try to force him to put the ball on the floor and use weak-side help, but he went by me twice, and that has nothing to do with my teammates. That’s totally on me."
Truth be told, there was plenty of blame to go around Tuesday. The Nets (28-20) lost to a below-.500 team for the first time all season, at home, and the Lakers (23-26) were missing two starters: Dwight Howard, due to a shoulder injury, and Metta World Peace, due to a suspension.
But Wallace, who made the NBA All-Defensive first team in 2010, was not the primary culprit. He forced Bryant into many tough shots, and held him to 21 points -- significantly under his average of 27.7, third-best in the league.
The shorthanded Lakers simply appeared to want this game more.
"It’s very frustrating," Wallace said. "I think we didn’t play with energy in this game."
Said Carlesimo: "We just got outplayed by the guys that were here."