LA Lakers vs. Brooklyn Nets: Postgame Grades and Analysis for LA
Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace who?
After falling behind to Brooklyn early, Los Angeles came surging back in the second quarter to take a nine-point lead into the half.
The third quarter definitely wasn't as smooth for the Lakers, though. Certain someones (cough, Pau Gasol cough) appeared lethargic and passive on the offensive end, and Los Angeles allowed the Nets to fight back to take the lead.
Los Angeles battled back, however, taking a three-point lead into the fourth quarter.
Though both parties went back and forth for most of the final period, the Lakers took over in the waning minutes, securing their third straight road victory.
Did Kobe Bryant continue his reign as a distributional juggernaut? Is Earl-sanity still in full swing? Did Steve Nash's hair stay in place?
It wasn't the prettiest of sorts, but defense (yes, defense) helped sway the outcome in the Lakers' favor.
With a little bit of offense, of course.
Point Guard: Steve Nash
Steve Nash did a whole lot of everything against Brooklyn.
The point guard torched the Nets defense for 14 points on 54.5 percent shooting to go along with eight assists. His defense wasn't anything to applaud (as per usual), but he did do a nice job in helping the Lakers lock down Brooklyn's backcourt after the first quarter.
What I'm not willing to overlook, though, is how the Lakers are using Nash off the ball. I'm completely fine that he's not dominating the rock as much; considering how efficient a shooter he is, I'm actually intrigued.
But Kobe Bryant and crew have to get him more open looks. He attempted just 11 shots in 34 minutes and if he's not the primary playmaker anymore (even after eight dimes, he's not), I'd really like to see that number at 15.
Still, that's not on Nash, who did the most he could with what his teammates gave him to work with. I was especially impressed with his off-ball movements in the fourth. He did a nice job forcing the defense to cover the entire half court.
His handle also remains as swift as ever, and when given the ball, he compressed Brooklyn's defense to the point of implosion.
Pretty much, this one saw Nash doing a whole lot of Nash-like things.
Like hitting some big free throws, or, as I will not refer to it, doing what he couldn't do against the Detroit Pistons.
Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant looked, well, a lot more like Kobe Bryant in Brooklyn.
He attempted 24 shots, made just nine of them and dropped 21 points. He attempted to reprise or rather, continue his role as the primary playmaker, but either Pau Gasol could be found missing open looks or Bryant's passes went awry. I mean, those five turnovers don't lie.
Defensively, I thought the Black Mamba was stellar. He helped the Lakers disrupt the rhythm Deron Williams established in the first quarter and played a key role in rendering Brooklyn's backcourt erratic overall.
Bryant's hoarding of rebounds continued as well. He grabbed eight and didn't shy away from attempting to box out opposing bigs, either.
I really would have liked to have seen more ball movement by Kobe, though. He held the ball in his hands for far too long and seemed weary of deferring after witnessing a number of butter-finger moments by his brethren.
Such trepidation culminated in Bryant forcing the action, which wasn't effective. Though he tried to take opponents off the dribble with his left hand, the Nets' weak-side defense was actually impeccable.
We have come to expect triple-double-like numbers from Bryant and had he moved the ball a bit better, that may have been what we got.
Instead, Kobe's was a night marked by inconsistencies laced with a demonstrative dunk and a healthy dose of point-totaling clutch-ness.
Just like the ole' days, before he started facilitating.
Or, you know, last week.
Small Forward: Earl Clark
I want to see more of Earl Clark.
Not in the sense that he needs to play more, because he did log 41 minutes, but in the sense that Los Angeles needs to use him more.
Clark attempted just nine shots, but he connected on six of them en route to scoring 14 points.
Since the Lakers weren't utilizing him with the necessary frequency on offense, Clark took it upon himself to clean up on the glass. He had 12 rebounds to lead Los Angeles and was often the only one left fighting below the rim.
Big Earl continued to play some stellar defense as well. I especially can appreciate his footwork when defending off the dribble. Left, right, crossovers—you name it, he can defend it.
Perhaps Clark's most fatal flaw is his passiveness. I'm not saying he should be calling for the ball (though how awesome would that be?), but he needs to attack the rim on his own accord more. He may be in there to spot-up and knock down some jumpers, but on the few occasions he took the rock into the paint, he drew some fouls and really took Brooklyn's defense by surprise.
That said, I can't harp too much on his submission to Kobe Bryant and the rest of Los Angeles' veterans. He hit a monstrous three down the stretch that helped ice the Lakers' hard-fought victory and the team was a plus-18 with him on the floor.
Plus, he's still working through those jitters of being, you know, actually important.
Power Forward: Antawn Jamison
Antawn Jamison was brought to Los Angeles to score.
He dropped a respectable nine points but attempted just eight shots in 37 minutes. And when you think of Jamison playing 37 minutes, you envision him hoisting up at least 15 shots.
To be fair, though, An-to-the-Tawn did score when it counted most. He hit a huge floater late in the fourth that helped spur a Lakers run and subsequent victory. He's hardly been allowed to create for himself off the dribble like he did on that one, so kudos there.
I won't spend too much time ripping apart his defense, because you've heard it all before. I will say that after 14-plus years in the league, he needs to get a better read on first steps. Like badly.
Glass half-full style, Jamison did an adequate job of contesting some shots. He swatted away one shot, but he also forced some mid-air adjustments that resulted in some misses.
Jamison also came up huge on the glass for a Lakers team that was slaughtered in the rebounding department. He grabbed eight boards and was especially useful when tracking down long misses.
This wasn't even close to Jamison's best performance of the season, but it's more or less what the Lakers expected from him.
OK, maybe less, but you get the point.
Center: Pau Gasol
Shaking. My. Head.
Pau Gasol's tumultuous night came to an early end when he went down in the fourth quarter. After watching his execution on either end of the floor, though, I'd consider it a merciful end—for us.
He shot just 6-of-16 from the field for 15 points and grabbed a beggarly four rebounds. Far be it from me to criticize the man who's supposed to be proving he's still a star, but he looked seriously disengaged on at least half of the possessions.
From holding the ball too long to attempting to score off the dribble from outside the paint, Pau just didn't seem committed tonight offensively.
To make matters worse, he was a borderline liability on defense. Not only did Brook Lopez carve up Gasol and the Lakers for 30 points, but if you didn't see his two blocks, you would have thought he didn't contest a single shot.
I will give Gasol this: He dropped two pretty sweet dimes.
Yet not even they were enough to salvage this performance.
6th Man: Steve Blake
Steve Blake is working his way back from injury rather seamlessly.
The point guard gave the Lakers 17 minutes of solid action and hit two big shots at a time when Brooklyn looked like it was ready to unseat Los Angeles.
Blake wasn't used as a facilitator much, but when he was running the offense, he helped control the pace and, aside from one slip-up, protected the ball admirably.
It's more than clear that Blake isn't moving like he was before, but as he tries to find his niche in a second unit that's not built to run, that's perfectly fine. His experience is what the Lakers need more than anything at this point.
Judging by the way he helped settle down a suddenly inefficient Lakers faction during the third quarter, he's holding up his end of the deal.
I'd like to see him run more pick-and-rolls with Pau Gasol and even Robert Sacre, but again, he doesn't seem to keen on penetrating at the moment.
Normally, I would ride him hard for playing reserved basketball, but given how early in the process he still is, I actually didn't despise his conservative demeanor.
Rest of Bench
Listen, I get it—the Lakers are shallow. But that's no excuse for their bench accounting for just 16 of their 92 points.
As previously noted, I wasn't completely turned off by Steve Blake's efforts, but I was disgusted by what I saw from Jodie Meeks.
Los Angeles posted a plus-17 with Meeks on the floor, but he was just 2-of-6 from the field and seemed to be taking all the wrong shots. His defense was lackluster as well, and he often lost sight of his defender. Luckily for him, Brooklyn appeared averse to exploiting him.
As for Mr. Irrelevant, Robert Sacre, I saw some things I liked. OK, I saw just one thing: The kid can navigate the floor really well.
Outside of that, there wasn't much to love or even see. He played just 10 minutes, seemed nervous every time he touched the ball and clearly isn't ready to defend NBA-level big men (see: Brook Lopez).
Chris Duhon was basically a non-factor as well, which is fitting, because so was Los Angeles' bench.
But what else isn't knew?