When the New Jersey Nets refused to let Kobe Bryant beat them with his shooting, the perennial Los Angeles Lakers All-Star did them in with a couple of little passes.
After that, all Bryant wanted to do was complain about how the Lakers are playing.
Bryant scored 25 of his 32 points in the second half and set up Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom for easy baskets in a late eight-point run that led the Lakers to a 99-92 victory over the New Jersey Nets on Sunday.
”I thought we did a better job of spreading it out and making the better pass down the stretch,” said Bryant, who forced the Nets to double-team him late by scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter. ”We can’t just stand around and wait. We have to cut and move the ball. We were moving the ball better and got the win. We have to move and take advantage of what they give us.”
While the Lakers (17-7) did that late against the struggling Nets, they have been in a funk, winning only six of their last 11 games.
”We have to muster up the energy and muster up the motivation to play every night,” Bryant said. ”I’m (annoyed) about it. We’re not doing a good job of doing it. Today, we read the defense and made the right plays.”
Odom had five of his 22 points in the late spurt and Gasol had the other three in capping a 15-point, 11-rebound effort that led the Lakers to their sixth straight win over New Jersey.
Brook Lopez had 25 points and nine rebounds for the Nets, who have lost seven straight and 9 of 11. Devin Harris added 16 points and 10 assists and Kris Humphries had 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Gasol broke an 87-all tie, hitting the second of two free throws with 2:28 to play.
After Harris missed a drive, Bryant took advantage of the Nets’ double-teaming him and made them pay with his playmaking. He hit Gasol coming down the middle of the lane for a layup and a 90-87 lead with 1:48 to play.
Harris again failed to capitalize inside on the other end of the court and Bryant made a short cross-court pass to Odom for a dunk and a 92-87 lead with 1:02 left.
Odom closed out the run with a 3-pointer from the top of the key off a nice pass by Derek Fisher.
The scenario was very familiar for former Laker Jordan Farmar, who has eight points in his first game against his old teammates. He has seen Bryant make the right plays times and time again while playing with him.
”That’s the situation where you want him to take the shots,” Farmar said. ”You don’t want to give up dunks. He made the right plays and when he is doing that, they are a tough team to beat.”
Harris guarded Bryant well late in the game but the Nets made mistakes when they sent Humphries to help on double-teams. Lopez is supposed to drop down and prevent the passes for the easy baskets and he was slow getting there.
”They executed and we didn’t,” said Harris, who played despite hurting his shoulder in Dallas on Thursday. ”We missed a ton of shots at the rim, shots we normally make just didn’t go down for us.”
Odom isn’t worried about the Lakers, saying every team struggles at times.
”We can’t be great every single night,” Odom said. ”But it’s just the way we’ve been going for us for the last 10 to 15 games. We get a lead, give it away and have to fight back. We’re not playing to our potential. Not taking anything away from the Nets, but we’re just not playing well right now. It’s a little disappointing.”
The Lakers led most of the game but the Nets closed the gap to two points at the end of the third quarter. They eventually took the lead at 78-77 on two free throws by Lopez with 4:45 to play.
Neither team led by more than three points until the very end with Harris forging the last tie at 87 with a floater in the lane with 2:56 to go.
NOTES: Nets rookie forward Damion James is going to be sidelined with a broken right foot. He will have surgery on Monday. … The NBA champion Lakers will meet with President Obama in Washington on Monday, a day before they play the Wizards. ”It’s always cool meeting the President, because he knows us all by name and knows who we are,” Odom said. ”I am hoping we have a nice session and hopefully it won’t be the last time we’re there. … The crowd included former Lakers great Magic Johnson and Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard.