Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher presented the gargantuan championship ring to Jordan Farmar, and the hometown kid basked in warm applause from his former fans at Staples Center.
Then it was back to Farmar’s new career with the lowly New Jersey Nets.
Life in Hollywood is quite a bit more pleasant.
Bryant scored 27 points, Pau Gasol had 20 points and nine rebounds, and the Los Angeles Lakers hung on for their seventh straight victory, 100-88 Friday night over the Nets.
Lamar Odom had 14 points and 11 rebounds as the Lakers extended the NBA’s longest active winning streak despite never shaking the struggling Nets, who got 35 points from Brook Lopez in their ninth loss in 10 games.
Sasha Vujacic scored 17 points and Farmar had 12 in both reserve guards’ return to Staples Center with New Jersey after winning two titles with the Lakers.
”It was different, but the reception was amazing,” Farmar said. ”These are the people that kind of raised me. I was raised in this city, and everything I know is about Los Angeles, so it was great to feel the love from my home city. I was looking forward to getting a win.”
Farmar left the Lakers as a free agent last summer, saying his talents didn’t fit the triangle offense and believing he could be a starter elsewhere in the NBA. Vujacic was traded to New Jersey last month after essentially losing his job as Bryant’s backup to Shannon Brown.
Farmar’s honeymoon was over immediately after he got the ring: He got almost no cheers when he checked into the game. Vujacic was greeted with a bit more warmth, but both guards were booed regularly by the Los Angeles crowd in the second half while they kept the Nets close.
”These types of games are always the hardest for me,” Bryant said. ”They’re little brothers to me. … It’s good to see them. They both look like they’re in good spirits. Both played well, played with a lot of energy.”
Farmar and Vujacic both took big roles in the second half, with Vujacic’s 3-pointer pulling New Jersey within 78-76 with 7 1/2 minutes to play. The Lakers responded with nine consecutive points capped by Bryant’s three-point play with 5:23 left, coolly hanging on for their seventh straight win over New Jersey.
”It’s the second game that we played really good together (since the trade), and we’ve got to build on that,” said Vujacic, who took 16 shots and missed seven 3-pointers. ”They really want to win, and they know it takes extra work, but it’s going to take some time and some patience. It’s not going to happen overnight.”
Ron Artest scored 14 points for Los Angeles, which has been perfect since an embarrassing blowout loss to Memphis at home on Jan. 2, its fourth defeat in six games.
Brown added 12 points for the Lakers, who have won their last seven games in just 11 days during a brutal scheduling stretch that doesn’t include consecutive days off until Jan. 22-23.
”We’re getting there, but there are still areas that need to be addressed,” Bryant said. ”We blew so many coverages defensively – I think it’s noticeable. We held them to 42 percent from the field, so that’s not bad, but we still feel like we can improve.”
The Lakers limited Devin Harris to six points – more than 10 below his average – as the Nets lost their fourth straight game on the second stop of a four-game West Coast trip.
Lopez’s 13 first-quarter points put the Nets ahead early, but Bryant replied with 13 of his own. Los Angeles’ dominant 7-foot duo had rare early struggles, with Gasol scoring just two points until late in the second quarter and Andrew Bynum committing two early fouls.
The Nets gathered inspiration from their look at Farmar’s ring.
”He showed it to us, and that’s pretty much a manifestation of what we want,” said Lopez, whose missed dunk in the final minute left him one shy of his season high in points. ”It’s definitely some good eye candy, and something we want to achieve.”
Bynum finished with just two points and five rebounds in 22 minutes, although he swatted a layup attempt by Farmar into the second row behind the basket during the fourth quarter.
NOTES: Kris Humphries had six points and 15 rebounds for the Nets, but also whacked Gasol in the side of the face under the basket in the final minutes. Gasol got up slowly with a welt near his left eye, but made two free throws. … Odom went 5 for 11 from the free throw line, driving down his unimpressive percentage in an otherwise stellar season. He also got a technical foul with 1:06 to play. … Fans near courtside included WBC welterweight champion Andre Berto, Zac Efron, Robert Wuhl and producer Brian Grazer. Tom Petty and his wife, Dana, used the seats normally occupied by Jack Nicholson, who was raised in Neptune, N.J.