NEW YORK — On one of the last few meaningful possessions of Monday night’s game, Kyrie Irving found a way. The Brooklyn guard drove to his left against the hounding of Patrick Beverley, finishing with a contested floater in the lane.
Russell Westbrook sprinted down the floor on the other end, hunting for a quick layup to bite into the Nets’ lead, but missed.
The Lakers have won without their top two stars before, but most of the time, it’s just a lot more difficult.
In a game defined by who was not on the court as much as who was on it, the Nets got a rugged 121-104 win over the Lakers despite an impressive third-quarter rally by the visitors. It came down to, unsurprisingly, superior shooting: Brooklyn has a lot of proven dangerous shooters, and the Lakers have very few.
A Nets team without Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons still had Irving, who led the way at Barclays Center with 26 points. Without LeBron James or Anthony Davis, the Lakers got an even offensive effort with seven players in double figures, but only shot 39.3% from the floor.
Westbrook had 17 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds in another near-triple double, but was just 5 for 15 from the floor – another rough shooting night in a string of now five games in which he’s struggled to score from the floor. It was, unfortunately, a common issue for the Lakers guards: Patrick Beverley was 1 for 8, and Dennis Schröder was 2 for 15.
The best effort from any position group came from the big men: Thomas Bryant had 18 points, fueling a 14-0 rally at the start of the third quarter that thrust the Lakers into the fight after they had trailed by double digits for the entire second quarter. Wenyen Gabriel rattled off nine straight points, too, during the third, which the Lakers won 36-27.
But they started and finished poorly. The Nets outscored them a combined 65-38 in the first and fourth quarters. Brooklyn made 16 3-pointers, which helped stymie the Lakers’ threat early in the fourth quarter and allowed the hosts to pull away.
Added to an overtime loss to Boston, the defeat gave the Lakers an 0-2 start to their five-game road trip.
More to come on this story.