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There were two ready-made storylines for Tuesday's matchup between the Lakers and Nets.
The first was Mike D'Antoni's first game on the sideline as Lakers coach after a delay fueled by his recovery from knee replacement surgery that left him as the first coach in history to be described as day-to-day on an injury report. Whatever D'Antoni's got planned for the team wasn't in full effect on Wednesday night, although they continued their trend of looking better than they did when Mike Brown was at the controls.
Number two was the meeting between Dwight Howard and Brook Lopez, the guy the Nets desperately tried to trade to Orlando for the right to call Howard their own. The Magic didn't bite, so we got this matchup instead and we saw why the Nets were looking to make the upgrade.
Howard and Lopez both scored 23 points, but it took Lopez seven more shots to get there and Howard's 15 rebounds and four blocks helped the Lakers stay in position to come back in the fourth quarter for a 95-90 win. Howard's offensive numbers are slightly misleading as the Nets employed the popular method of fouling him instead of letting him get loose for dunks near the hoop.
It worked on one hand as Howard went 7-for-19 from the line, but it also kept the clock stopped a lot and that allowed the Lakers more time to make their grab for the lead in the final quarter. If the Nets could play something more closely resembling good defense on the frontline, they might have been able to keep Howard from forcing them into those positions often enough to hold on for the victory.
As it was, though, Howard and Pau Gasol combined to go 15-of-26 from the floor for 40 points to go with 26 rebounds and 10 assists in a pair of star performances that swung the game their way. Kobe Bryant tossed in 25 and the Lakers stars did what they were supposed to do.
It wasn't so much on the Nets' side. Deron Williams needed 18 shots to score 22 points and Joe Johnson continued to be more something less than the player the Nets thought they were getting when they agreed to take on his laughably immense contract in a trade this summer.
Johnson shot 6-of-16 and missed two open threes in the fourth quarter that could have halted the Lakers' run in time for the Nets to hold on for a win. Johnson's here to hit those shots and be the go-to guy down the stretch, but it hasn't worked out like that at all.
He's shooting 33 percent overall and 29 percent from three so far this season, anemic numbers that the Nets could be getting from any number of more reasonably paid shooting guards. Some transition time to a new team is to be expected, but you figured the one thing Johnson could do falling out of bed in the morning is shoot the basketball.
It hasn't been the case, though, and that makes it even more painful to see Howard doing all of the things the Nets coveted so openly all of last season.