SAN FRANCISCO -- Call it a mixed bag.
Tuesday night’s 95-90 defeat at the hands of Kobe Bryant and the Lakers at the Staples Center had the Nets split a bit.
On one hand, they were pleased with the way they clawed back into it after finding themselves in a 10-0 hole four minutes into the game, storming to a six-point lead late in the fourth quarter.
However, there’s still another ‘L’ in the loss column, the first one for the Nets since getting clobbered by the Heat in Miami on Nov. 7.
“A loss is a loss,” Joe Johnson said. “No moral victories. But we fought hard. We put ourselves behind the 8-ball early, got back in the game and we were pretty much neck-and-neck the whole game. We kind of took a little five-, six-point lead with like four of five minutes left.
“But offensively, we didn’t come up with those big plays.”
Time for the Three Points:
--* Avery Johnson dusted off the Hack-A-Shack and remixed it, breaking out the Hack-A-Dwight in the fourth quarter. It was a pretty good strategy at first when you saw Dwight clank free throw after free throw (Ok, so one of them didn’t clank anything since it was a straight air ball). But you wonder why the Nets didn’t go to it more before pulling the plug.
Probably because Kobe got into one of the referee’s heads. Following one particular foul on Howard, Kobe threw the ball up at the basket from a few steps in front of the halfcourt line, looking to get an and-1. Basically, he was planting the seeds of doubt and making sure he let the refs know what he was doing.
“We couldn’t do it any more because Kobe was trying to counter it by getting up a three-point shot and the referee kind of talked to us about it," Avery said. "So we did it. It helped there for a minute, but just offensively we wish we could have had a few more shots to fall there in the fourth quarter."
Mike D’Antoni, making his debut on the Lakers' bench, welcomed the strategy.
“If they start hacking Dwight and he is making one out of two, so that is one point per possession," D'Antoni said. "That’s pretty good basketball, especially down the stretch. So that’s fine. If they want to do that, that’s great. I’ve got no problem.”
--* Wallace’s importance to this team can’t be stressed enough and we saw once again just how much of an influence he is, particularly with his all-out style and defensive prowess.
In just his second game back from a six-game absence while nursing a badly sprained left ankle and bone bruise, Wallace was all over the court, basically doing everything but scoring consistently. He had five steals, three blocks and two assists to go along with seven points.
Wallace also refused to let the Lakers simply waltz through the lane and get easy dunks or layups. He made sure to contest Howard’s shot on any chance he got, even wrapping him up whenever he did foul the Lakers’ big man, who, by the way, was doing some really weird antics after each Nets free throw.
“He means a lot to us defensively, got his hands on a lot of balls,” Avery said. “When he gets back into his regular game conditioning, you’ll see him make even more plays.”
--*Rebounding Wednesday night is a must.
No, we’re not talking about the Nets needing to wipe the glass clean, although that certainly would help matters. It’s imperative for them to pogo stick back and finish this West Coast stretch of three games in four nights with a win over the Warriors.
Oracle Arena can be a tough place to play, but after going toe-to-toe with the Lakers in a charged environment, a Los Angeles hangover would be unacceptable against a struggling Golden State (6-5).
If the Nets are truly going to become one of the better teams in the conference, these are the types of games they must win. There can’t be any moral victories in Yay Area Wednesday.
“That’s the most important thing now, is to go 2-1,” Deron Williams said. “We lost this one, but we can’t hang our heads, we can’t sulk. It definitely hurts, and it should if you are any type of competitor. Now we’ve got to bounce back.”