The Nets have feasted on some of the NBA’s bottom-dwellers in the 2012-13 season, but every so often they’re given a dose of reality.
Such was the case Tuesday night.
The Los Angeles Lakers entered the Barclays Center for the first time and left strangely satisfied after delivering their fans a 92-83 win. Lakers fans made up the bulk of the sellout crowd Tuesday night in Brooklyn.
If the Nets want to evolve into that championship team Mikhail Prokhorov promised, they will first need to fill the arena with their fans. The purple and gold chanted “Lakers,” serenaded Kobe Bryant with “M-V-P” chants, and in a final humiliating blow, asked for free tacos as the final seconds ticked off the Barclays buzzer.
Fans in the Staples Center receive free tacos when the Lakers score over 100 points.
“From my perspective, it’s pretty damn cool,” Bryant said. “I enjoyed it immensely... There’s a lot of energy in the building and you can feel it.”
In the fourth quarter, Bryant eluded Gerald Wallace before finishing a thunderous dunk in traffic. The crowd’s buzz lasted long after Brook Lopez converted an and-one play at the other end to recapture an 83-82 lead for the Nets.
“I’ve played a lot of games against the Lakers in Salt Lake City for Utah, but when the Lakers came to town, there’s something about them,” Deron Williams said. “They have fans that really travel well.”
The Nets' struggles against upper-echelon competition are partly to blame. In losing to the Lakers, the Nets lost their first game of the year to a team below .500 at the time the game was played. Seventeen of the Nets' 28 wins have come to those teams.
As if the road atmosphere was not insult enough, the Lakers beat the Nets without Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace. Minus two of the league’s better defenders, the Lakers limited the Nets to an alarming 34.8 percent shooting from the field.
“We had a great opportunity to win this game with a little bit of energy and effort and we didn’t have either one,” Wallace said.
Brook Lopez scored a game-high 30 points (11-of-25 shooting), but the Nets had few others come to his aid. Joe Johnson took a supporting role and went 4-of-15 from the field while Deron Williams turned the ball over five times.
“We didn’t have energy tonight and we didn’t make shots,” Wallace said. “That’s what it comes down to... They played well tonight and we didn’t.”
Although the Lakers in uniform may have played well, the Nets showed strategic dysfunction by settling for countless jumpers instead of pounding the ball into the paint. Despite Lopez’s 30 points, no other Net made an effort to score inside.
“I think we settled for jumpshots, what they were giving us,” Wallace said. “We didn’t attack the rim, we didn’t put the pressure of them. We knew they were shorthanded as far as their bench players and we didn’t force the issue... We wanted to be aggressive and we didn’t come out and be aggressive.”
The Nets’ failure to execute against an undermanned Lakers team left P.J. Carlesimo with little to feel good about.
“I’m not encouraged by anything I saw tonight,” Carlesimo said to close his press conference.