LOS ANGELES — Under ordinary circumstances, traveling from New York to the Left Coast to spend four summer-like November days in L.A. might seem like an indulgent treat. A reporter suggested as much to Nets coach Kenny Atkinson before his team faced the Lakers on Tuesday night at Staples Center.
“From a quality-of-life standpoint, it’s fantastic,” Atkinson said with a smile.
Pressed as to what sort of “L.A. things” he might spend time doing, Atkinson demurred. “Not me. I’m looking at a lot of film,” he said. “I’m trying to get settled into my routine as a rookie head coach. I’m not out and about much.”
After suffering a second loss in two lovely L.A. nights, this one 125-118 to the Lakers, pity Atkinson. He figures to spend their day off Wednesday before a Thursday practice at USC working on more video instead of his tan before the Nets head to Oklahoma City for a Friday night encounter with the Thunder.
The Nets (4-7) played far better than the previous night in a 32-point blowout loss to the Clippers, but it wasn’t good enough to get past a resurgent young Lakers (7-5) squad that got a brilliant game from D’Angelo Russell with 32 points, including 7-for-13 shooting from three-point range, to go with eight rebounds and four assists. Center Timofey Mozgov was a force in the middle with 20 points and six boards, and athletic forward Julius Randle recorded a triple-double with 17 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists.
Brook Lopez led the Nets with 30 points and added 10 rebounds, Bojan Bogdanovic poured in 29 points, shooting 11-for-18, and Trevor Booker had 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Atkinson faulted his team for poor transition defense for the second straight game, poor offensive rebounding and for putting the Lakers at the foul line 43 times (making 34).
“We know the areas we need to improve,” Atkinson said. “But we gave ourselves a chance. We bounced back from a tough loss. We’ve got to sustain longer on defense, but on the positive side, we had 66 paint points. We’re getting to the rim.”
The return to the lineup of starting center Lopez, who was rested while healthy for the second time this season in the loss to the Clippers on Monday night, had a lot to do with the Nets’ effort.
“I love Brook’s competitive spirit,” Atkinson said. “He really gave us a boost. We feed off his energy, and I love how he competed on the defensive end.”
It became obvious early that controlling Russell was going to be a problem for the Nets. The Lakers’ point guard opened the scoring with a three-pointer, later made a run of threes on three straight positions and then hit his fifth in a row for a 23-17 lead.
Despite that fireworks display by Russell, who had 17 points in the opening period, the Nets emerged from the first quarter with a 29-27 lead. Lopez scored 13 first-quarter points and combined with Booker to give the Nets a strong inside presence.
In the third period, the Lakers pushed their lead as high as 13 points, and with 4:49 left, the Nets still trailed by 10. But they cut their deficit to 116-112 on a layup with 2:39 left by Bogdanovic, who had 11 points in the fourth quarter. That was as close as they got.
Although Lopez made 4 of 11 three-point shots, the Nets only shot 29.3 percent from long range, and they were outrebounded, 55-47.
“We did a poor job of keeping them off the offensive glass and getting the 50-50 balls,” Lopez said of the Lakers’ 20-13 edge in second-chance points. “That gave them a nice cushion.”
Still, the way the Nets fought on the second game of a back-to-back was impressive.
“We kept fighting to the last buzzer for all 48 minutes,” Lopez said. “I’ve come to expect it from these guys.”