Lakers Show Nets There's Work to Be Done

Nets fall apart late in loss to depleted Lakers

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Kobe got the loudest cheers of the night in Brooklyn.

    During the darkest moments of the Knicks' James Dolan/Isiah Thomas fueled descent to the bottom of the NBA barrel, visits from star players like Kobe Bryant would turn into lovefests that turned the Knicks into a de facto road team. 

    This year's Nets team is considerably better than those teams, but Tuesday night's visit from the Lakers proved that there's a lot of work to do before they're established enough to avoid the same fate at the Barclays Center.

    A crowd that sounded 50/50 during the first three quarters turned rabidly pro-Lakers in the final minutes, never louder than when Bryant destroyed Gerald Wallace on an iso for the kind of dunk that winds up as a poster on a six-year-old's wall.

    The response to that dunk was so loud that Brook Lopez's basket while getting fouled on the other hand barely registered with the crowd. It would be the last time the Nets scored as the Lakers had the final 10 points of the game to walk out of their first visit to Barclays with a victory. 

    It made the crowd much happier than it should have, but that's the minor concern for the Nets about the 93-82 loss. A bigger concern is how they wound up losing to the Lakers on a night when the visitors had no Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace. 

    The biggest is how they fell apart in the final minutes of the game to wind up losers despite the fact that the Lakers also lost Pau Gasol to a foot injury with a little more than four minutes to play. The Lakers, down three of their best players on the road, elevated their game while the Nets blinked at the challenge. 

    Lopez asked for the blame after the game, but his 30 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks were pretty much the best things produced by the Nets all evening. He was bad defensively on a pair of pick and rolls late, particularly an Earl Clark jumper that all but iced the game, but blaming Lopez for the loss would be ignorance in the extreme. 

    Deron Williams and Joe Johnson are paid to be leaders of the team and they're the ones to blame for a lifeless offense that settled for jumpers all night instead of pounding the ball inside to exploit mismatches. The starting guards finished 9-of-28 from the field and Williams had five turnovers against the fairly non-threatening Lakers defense, numbers that had a lot more to do with the Nets loss than Lopez's slow-footed defense. 

    It was the latest in a long series of unimpressive performances by the starting backcourt this season, all of which have wound up leaving the Nets missing the kind of steady hand on the rudder that they need if they're going to finish this season in a place commensurate with their talent. As mentioned, Lopez asked for the blame and Wallace did the same despite limiting Kobe to 8-of-23 shooting outside of that monster dunk. 

    Williams and Johnson? No such sounds could be heard and Johnson couldn't even be bothered to speak to reporters after the game ended.

    The Lakers' visit exposed the fact that the Nets have plenty of work to do when it comes to developing a fan base. It also exposed the fact that firing Avery Johnson didn't do all that much to improve the team's leadership profile. 

    Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.