LOS ANGELES (AP) -- After losing three in a row for their longest
slide of the season, the New Jersey Nets were eager to beat
That somebody turned out to be the team that swept them in the NBA Finals last year, as the Nets' downed the Los Angeles Lakers 89-83 on Friday night.
"We had a chip on our shoulders tonight and wanted to prove to
ourselves and to everyone else that we can beat any team in this
league,'' New Jersey coach Byron Scott said.
"We played 48 minutes of good, solid basketball and defensively we didn't allow them to get big-time runs. We defended.''
Kerry Kittles had 17 points to lead a balanced scoring attack and hit a pivotal 3-pointer with 40 seconds remaining to give the Atlantic Division-leading Nets an 85-83 lead.
"The Lakers are not what they were last year right now, but it is just big for us to get a victory on this West Coast trip,'' said Kettles, referring to the Nets' beginning a five-game trip with three losses before finally winning one.
The Lakers' loss was their third in four games and the
three-time defending NBA champions dropped to 19-23.
Shaquille O'Neal had 27 points and 13 rebounds for Los Angeles,
but missed four of six free throws in the final 1:51 and was
5-of-13 from the line for the game.
"Unfortunately, we couldn't come down the stretch and win the
game,'' Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "We had all the
opportunities to win it and couldn't do it at the end.''
Kittles' go-ahead 3-pointer came after O'Neal had just made one
of two free throws to give Los Angeles an 83-82 edge. After Kittles
scored, O'Neal missed two free throws, Kenyon Martin made a pair
from the line to give New Jersey a four-point lead with 14 seconds
left. The Lakers' Robert Horry then missed a 3-pointer and Martin
scored on a fast break.
Martin had 18 points for New Jersey, which had six players in
double figures. Richard Jefferson and Aaron Williams added 12
points each. Jason Kidd went 3-of-13 from the floor and had 11
points, and Jason Collins had 10.
"I'm just getting my rhythm back right now,'' Bryant said of
his poor shooting night. "My knee felt pretty good, the best it's
felt in a long time.
The Lakers trailed 80-75 with 3:10 to play. But Bryant made a
fallaway jumper, Rick Fox a layup, O'Neal made one free throw and
then dunked off a lob from Fox to tie it 82-82 with 1:22 remaining.
The Lakers built a 60-52 lead with 2:19 left in the third
quarter, but Kittles made a 3-pointer and another jumper to help
the Nets narrow the gap to 62-59 heading into the fourth.
Fisher scored 14 points in the first half to help Los Angeles to
a 40-37 lead.
The Nets led 23-19 at the end of the first quarter.
Bryant complained of pain in his knee after the Lakers' last
game, a 114-110 loss to Golden State on Wednesday. He also missed
practice earlier in the week because of the soreness.
New Jersey's Lucious Harris sat out his second straight game with a bruised calf, hurt when he was kicked during Monday's 106-103 loss at Utah. The Nets also are missing Rodney Rogers
(strained left calf) and Dikembe Mutombo (torn ligament right wrist), both on the injured list. ... The ever-philosophical Jackson said before the game that he has found himself wondering whether he can still communicate effectively with the Los Angeles players after coaching them for three years. He said he was thinking about that as recently as Wednesday, during the loss to the Warriors, but added he believes he still can get through to them.