Big three not enough as Lakers beat Nets for second time

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- The flu only slowed Kobe Bryant, it didn't stop him.

Bryant had 21 points, a season-high 11 assists and combined with Jordan Farmar to lead the Los Angeles Lakers in the fourth quarter in a 99-95 victory over the New Jersey Nets on Friday night.

"It's a struggle," Bryant said of playing with the illness. "I'm looking forward to going back to the room and getting some rest. I have been struggling with it right before we came out on the road trip. I've been trying to fight it off. Last night it caught up to me."

Bryant and Farmar got going when the Nets caught up to the Lakers early in the fourth quarter.

Bryant had nine points and his last assist and Farmar had five points and two assists in the final quarter. The Lakers also got good efforts from reserves Andrew Bynum (four points, four rebounds) and Maurice Evans (five points) down the stretch in holding off the Nets for the second time this season.

"I didn't think our starters came out with the right focus and they lost the lead right away in the third quarter," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "If they (the reserves) play minutes they are going to have some effect on the game."

Vince Carter had 33 points, Jason Kidd added 16 points and nine assists and Richard Jefferson had 18 points for New Jersey, which may have lost more than the game. Starting center Nenad Krstic injured his left knee midway through the third quarter and he had to be helped off the court. An MRI exam was planned for Saturday to determine the extent of the injury.

"I went to spin," Krstic said in a statement. "My knee twisted and I heard a pop."

Down 98-85 with less than 3 minutes to play, the Nets scored 10 straight points to get within three. Carter had a chance to tie it with 2 seconds left but his 3-pointer hit off the rim and Bryant got the rebound. He added a free throw to close out the scoring.

"I had a great look," Carter said. "I let it go and it felt like it was going in."

After Nets rookie Marcus Williams hit a 3-pointer to tie it at 83 early in the fourth quarter, Los Angeles went on a 15-2 spurt to take a 98-85 lead with 2:57 to go.

Bynum, the former New Jersey high school star, started the spurt with a layin and Bryant expanded the lead to four points, converting an alley-oop pass from Farmar, who finished with 10 points.

Two free throws by Bryant and one by Vladimir Radmanovic gave Los Angeles a 90-83 edge.

A jumper by Carter got the Nets within five, but Evans hit a jumper, Bynum scored a layup and Bryant, who only took 13 shots in a game in which he was content to pass, added four more free throws.

"It's just the way they play," Bryant said of the Nets' defense. "It's one of those teams that is absolutely bent on me not scoring. They throw everything but the kitchen sink. The challenge I have is to make teams see that I can just be as big a threat passing the ball."

The Nets made their comeback on a three-point play by Mikki Moore, two baskets by Jefferson and a 3-pointer by Kidd with 31.6 seconds to go.

Bryant missed a shot on the Lakers' next possession, giving the Nets their last shot.

Los Angeles had a foul to give with 6.3 seconds to go. Carter took the inbounds pass and missed his chance to tie it.

Krstic, averaging 16.4 points and 6.8 rebounds, was hurt with a little more than 6 minutes left in the third quarter. He caught a pass from Jefferson in the lane and started to back his man down in the lane. His knee gave out and he fell to the court.

"He couldn't put any pressure on his knee," Kidd said. "You hope for sprain. That's the best case scenario and you go from there."

Game notes
A transformer malfunction outside the arena caused the lights to dim early in the first quarter. Play was suspended for about four minutes and the quarter was finished with reduced lighting. ... The Texas Bowl-bound Rutgers football team attended the game. ... The game was the third of a six-game road trip for the Lakers, now 2-1. ... New Jersey is now 1-12 in games in which it scores less than 100 points. ... The Lakers were 12-of-24 from 3-point range with Brian Cook hitting 3-of-4.


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