Gutting out a sprained ankle, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers winning ways were extended to 4-0 on this road trip with a 103-95 victory over the New Jersey Nets at the Izod Center. Near the end of the 2nd quarter, Bryant drove the lane and got tangled with Devin Harris and landed awkwardly clutching his lower leg. Ankle insurance or not, Kobe hobbled off the floor and headed to the locker room. Earlier in the contest, the Lakers were cruising with a comfortable 31-25 lead after one. But the Nets came back in the second quarter, scoring at will against the Lakers bench, trimming the lead at halftime to 51-49. In a game reminiscent of their last victory, the Lakers entertained huge peaks with equally deep valleys. Kobe reappeared ready for the second half with a re-taped right ankle and a few ginger first minutes. But it was vintage Kobe in the third quarter as he scored 12 of his 14 points, connecting on three consecutive 3-pointers, the last putting the Lakers ahead 81-59 and forcing New Jersey to call time out.
The 4th quarter was all Pau Gasol as he repeatedly exploited the weak Nets interior defense in route to a season-high 36 points to go along with 11 rebounds and 7 assists. Derek Fisher provided 18 points and stellar defense on Devin Harris, limiting him to 4-13 from the floor. Lamar Odom added 12 points and netted 11 boards. Trevor Ariza rounded out the scoring with 11 points along with his typical handful of hustle plays. With Kobe clearly avoiding any contact in the second half, he drew the defense to him and then managed to dish off for easy buckets, Gasol being the primary recipient. Kobe finished with 9 assists and added 4 steals. Half-Human, Half-Amazing Vince Carter led the Nets with 20 points connecting on a little more than half of his shot attempts. Jarvis Hayes added 19 points off the bench connecting on 4-8 from three point range to keep the Nets close. Nets rookie Robin Lopez managed 16 points and 10 rebounds, but the game easily belonged to Gasol, who scored on a variety of moves around the basket. On one possession in the 4th quarter, he quickly spun around a frozen Lopez, drove baseline and slammed home a thunderous dunk.
The game marked the 728th game for Phil Jackson, the most ever by a Lakers coach, moving him ahead of Pat Riley. The victory also clinched the top spot in the Western Conference race and leaves the Lakers still trailing Cleveland by one game for the best record overall. The Lakers next opponent is Atlanta on Sunday afternoon where the Hawks are 28-9 at home.
dEDGE Post Scriptum
Jersey’s got Springsteen and Bon Jovi, Atlantic City and the boardwalk. Birthplace of Sinatra and the Jonas Brothers, home to big hair, really big hair. They’re also home to the NY Jets and the NY Giants. Unfortunately, they’re also the current leasers to the New Jersey Nets, who in this economic climate seem inclined to stay rather than move across the Hudson River into Brooklyn. In 2004, Nets officials said the new Brooklyn arena, named the Barclays Center, would be ready by 2006. Spearheaded by team owner and real estate developer Bruce Ratner, and headlined by rapper/part owner Jay-Z, the Nets intended to become the first major sports team to play in Brooklyn since Walter O’Malley and the Dodgers left in 1958. Planning for a large redevelopment of the area headlined by the new arena, was begun by Ratner’s group. Last year, the team said it would move into the new facility sometime in 2009. The goal as of January of this year was to be in the arena sometime during 2010. Now, the soonest appears to be sometime during the 2011-2012 season as ground has yet to be broken on the site. The economic downturn and environmental concerns loom large when and if the construction will ever begin.
The Nets all but announced to the league that Lebron James was the intended centerpiece to their relocation. Playing in Cleveland is one thing, especially if you grew up there, but playing in New Jersey is not the same as playing in New York, no matter how accessible it is across the river. Jersey is home to the most number of toxic waste dumps in the nation and has the densest population of any state. (These are all of the folks who say they live in NY.) It is also the home to both Dennis Rodman and Shaquille O’Neal, but at last glance I believe they both call Cali home, at least part of the time. The residents rely on clean, efficient nuclear power, serviced by three plants in the state including the oldest operating plant in the nation. (Sounds safe doesn’t it?) New Jersey has one of the highest tax burdens in the country. (That means more money leaves your wallet than returns to it.) But New Jersey was recently rated the second most excellent state to visit, behind Ohio. It has been rated with the lowest number of depression cases in the U.S. (Probably because no one claims to be from there.) The board game Monopoly® originated from the street names in Atlantic City. (Just don’t buy property on Baltic Avenue.) And New Jersey has more horses per square mile than any other state. (Better buy a few pairs of boots.) The book Jaws was based on actual shark attacks off the Jersey shore. (Stay in the pool, it’s safer and cleaner.) But there is fine dining available as New Jersey boasts having the most diners of any state. (Who needs a latte when you can get a cup of Joe from Flo?) The state motto is “Come see for yourself.” Lebron, take some friendly advice… On second thought, never mind. Go Lakers!