Brooklyn Nets vs. Los Angeles Lakers: Postgame Grades and Analysis
The first official game of the Mike D'Antoni era resulted in a 95-90 victory for the Los Angeles Lakers over the Brooklyn Nets Tuesday evening at Staples Center.
With D'Antoni's system putting the onus on the starters, four of the Lakers' starting five scored in double figures, with Darrius Morris as the outlier.
The Nets' inside-outside duo of Brook Lopez and Deron Williams combined for 45 points, but as a team Brooklyn struggled and only shot 41.5 percent from the field.
Now having won three games in a row, it looks like the Lakers are starting to piece things together on both ends of the floor. While there may need to be a more comfortable balance between the starters and the bench, D'Antoni has things moving in a positive direction.
Here are postgame player grades and analysis from Tuesday night's contest.
Deron Williams, PG, BK: B
No Steve Nash, no problem for Deron Williams. With Darius Morris his primary opposition, Williams exploded on the offensive end, picking his spots and driving to the basket at will. The three-time All-Star handled his opposition to the tune of 22 points on 6-of-18 shooting.
Williams also chipped in 10 assists, finding Brook Lopez on several occasions with pretty feeds to the low post for easy baskets.
Darius Morris, PG, LAL: D-
Let's call this one a night Darius Morris would rather forget. Coming off an impressive showing against the Houston Rockets, Morris was at a significant disadvantage going up against Williams.
Incapable of playing the pick-and-roll to an effective degree, Morris was forced to take a backseat in the Laker offense, deferring to Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol as they facilitated the majority of the offense.
Morris finished with three points and three assists in 23 minutes.
Joe Johnson, SG, BK: C
It's been a rough start to the season for Joe Johnson, the sharpshooter who was supposedly going to help revitalize the Nets backcourt.
Instead, Johnson has struggled to find his jumpshot or a comfortable rhythm.
Playing in the spotlight of Staples Center, Johnson converted on just 6-of-16 shots, finishing with 14 points due in large part to the stingy defense of Metta World Peace.
Kobe Bryant, SG, LAL: A-
If you were forced to turn the game off after the first quarter it would have been safe to assume that Kobe Bryant finished somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 points (11 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the first frame).
Instead, Kobe played the role of facilitator, setting up his bigs for easy looks, and finished the game with a game-high 25 points (8-of-15 shooting) and five assists.
Kobe's limited offensive output in the second half can be attributed to great defense by Gerald Wallace, who expended every bit of energy he had guarding Bryant.
Gerald Wallace, SF, BK: B
The return of Gerald Wallace has been a welcome one for the Nets, who had previously been stuck with Keith Bogans logging significant minutes at small forward.
Wallace's stingy defense and aggression on the boards were a refreshing sight, as he pulled down five rebounds and compiled five steals and three blocks.
Although his offensive contributions were fairly limited (seven points on 2-of-7 shooting), Wallace helped stabilize a Brooklyn defense that has been wildly inconsistent this season.
Metta World Peace, SF, LAL: A-
Mike D'Antoni's high-octane offense may have a surprise beneficiary, and his name is Metta World Peace.
With so much of the offensive action moving through the low and high post, the Nets defense was forced to collapse often in the post, leaving World Peace with some nice open looks on the perimeter.
Finishing with 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting (4-of-9 from three), World Peace proved that he will be a significant part of the Lakers' offensive plans moving forward.
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Kris Humphries, PF, BK: C+
Kris Humphries' offensive game doesn't lend itself to eye-popping numbers, which is why it should come as no surprise that his impact against the Lakers was felt more on defense.
Compiling 10 rebounds to go with this seven points, Humphries pieced together a respectable performance.
Pau Gasol, PF, LAL: A-
It was believed that Pau Gasol's versatility would serve him well in the Princeton offense, but it looks like his game has adapted just fine to the Lakers' new scheme.
Operating out of both the high and low post, Gasol has found ways to score, not only off the jumpers, but the dribble as well.
Gasol exploited his height advantage over Humphries to the tune of 17 points, while nearing a triple-double with 11 rebounds and seven assists.
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Brook Lopez, C, BK: A
With all of the talk surrounding who the NBA's best center may or may not be, Brook Lopez certainly looked like he belonged in the conversation with this most recent performance.
Matched up against Dwight Howard, Lopez flashed a consistent jumper that complemented his improved post moves, ultimately finishing with a team-high 23 points to go with his seven rebounds.
Howard's All-NBA defense didn't faze Lopez, and the matchup appeared to energize one of the NBA's finest young big men.
Dwight Howard, C, LAL: A-
Another fine performance from the Lakers' prized big man, Dwight Howard stuffed the stat sheet to the tune of 23 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks.
While Howard had his way with Lopez and Humphries on offense, his physical limitations were at times evident on the defensive end, where Lopez had his way off the bounce or off the spot-up jumper.
Nets coach Avery Johnson decided to enact the Hack-a-Howard strategy midway through the fourth quarter in hopes of neutralizing the Lakers offense, which proved effective. Howard finished 7-of-19 from the line in the contest.
If Tuesday night was any indication, Howard is slowly rounding into form. Give him a few weeks and Howard will be back to the dominant low-post presence we have grown to know.
C.J. Watson, PG, BK: C
Easily the Nets' most productive bench body, C.J. Watson helped provide a spark to a second unit that otherwise looked rather listless.
Watson knocked down a couple of threes to maintain an early Nets lead and finished the game with eight points (3-of-7) in 19 minutes.
Antawn Jamison, PF, LAL: D
We were made to believe that Antawn Jamison would be a significant contributor off the bench for the Lakers, but thus far he has looked lost.
Entering the evening, Jamison was averaging a shade over four points per game. He didn't do anything to boost his disappointing numbers Tuesday night.
Scoring just two points in nine minutes, Jamison showed his age, as he let an even older Jerry Stackhouse blow by him on more than one occasion.
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Brooklyn Bench: C+
The Nets weren't able to lean on their bench as much as they would have preferred against the Lakers, as Avery Johnson's reserves totaled just 17 points on the night.
Jerry Stackhouse saw his fair share of minutes (15), and managed to contribute five points matched up against fellow North Carolina Tar Heel Antawn Jamison.
Reggie Evans will likely be getting a call from the league for an egregious flop, but aside from that looked like his usual, petulant self, pulling down 11 rebounds (seven offensive) in 19 minutes.
Los Angeles Bench: D
A difficult task for Mike D'Antoni will be figuring out how to maximize the productivity of his bench, one that has been wildly inconsistent in the early going. The Lakers bench has struggled mightily through the opening weeks of the season, and Tuesday night was no different.
Jodie Meeks was supposed to be the team's instant offense off the bench, but was unable to record a single point in nine minutes of action.
The only other Laker reserves to log minutes were Jordan Hill and Chris Duhon. Duhon split point duties with Morris (25 minutes), posting four points and three assists. Hill looked good in spurts, scoring four points in relief of Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol.