The Los Angeles Lakers played without their two biggest stars, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score might indicate. The team did enough to get past the Brooklyn Nets, 121-104, Monday night at Barclays Center.
The Nets led throughout the first half, were ineffective in the third quarter and hung on to beat the depleted Lakers in front of a sellout crowd of 17,924. Kyrie Irving scored 26 points and Patty Mills added 21, with Cam Thomas putting up 21 points in a win that improves Brooklyn’s record to 4-6 during Kevin Durant’s absence.
It was a busy day for the young Nets, who also lost Ben Simmons (knee) for the second consecutive game. The young big man Day’Ron Sharpe took over at center, recording his first career double-double with 14 rebounds and eight offensives.
After a slow start, the Lakers built a seven-point lead late in the third period as they continued to make life difficult for the Nets with their suffocating defense. Then, the Lakers were outscored 20-6 in the fourth to allow the Nets to withstand an onslaught and pull away for their fifth straight victory.
One of the most entertaining moments in this game came early in the first quarter when Kyrie Irving, one of the quickest ballhandlers in the NBA, dribbled in front of the Lakers’ bench and one of their most peskiest defenders, Patrick Beverley, attempted to mirror him move for move.
A video of the interaction went viral and became a talking point for both sides, with Westbrook calling it “outstanding” while Irving echoed his sentiment that there’s a lot of hard work that goes into making greatness happen. The two players then traded words, with Westbrook claiming that some people show up and do what they need to do and Irving responding, “Yessir.”
In the end, it was Irving who walked away with the win. He hit a hook shot in the corner to give the Nets an 88-82 lead and then hit a contested corner 3 with less than 2 minutes to play for a 116-102 edge.
Irving also made it clear that he was still the most important player on this Brooklyn roster, as he finished with seven assists in just under 19 minutes of play. He moved into sole possession of 10th on the NBA’s career assist leaderboard, passing Gary Payton for a dunk in the second quarter.
He was rewarded for his effort with a pair of free throws in the final seconds to seal it. He poured in 22 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter, including nine in a stretch that helped Brooklyn build a 10-point lead before the Lakers pulled it back down to five with about three minutes left.
The Lakers didn’t shoot well, but they did what they always do: fought until the very last minute. They were down by as many as 17 points in the second quarter, but rallied to take a 60-58 lead. Then, they squandered the momentum by being outscored by 16 in the second half as the Nets regained control of the game with an 11-0 run to open the third quarter.