Gasol eases load on Bryant as Lakers rout NetsFeb 6, 2008 - 5:08 AM By Carl Dispoto PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- Usually, holding Kobe Bryant to single digits is a sure way to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers - not anymore.
Pau Gasol had 24 points and 12 rebounds in his debut and Derek Fisher tied a season high with 28 points as the Lakers overcame a season-low six from an injured Bryant en route to a 105-90 victory over the New Jersey Nets.
Bryant struggled after dislocating a finger on his shooting hand in the second quarter. He briefly left the game before returning with his fingers taped but was ineffective, opening the door for a dominant fourth quarter from Gasol.
Bryant dished out eight assists and worked extremely well with Gasol, who made 10-of-15 shots, including all five of his attempts in the fourth quarter.
"He made the game extremely easy," Bryant said. "Defenses are used to playing a certain way and now they are going to have to evaluate how they play. He can shoot or he can make a play, so it going to be a little more difficult for defenses to come up with a scheme."
"I just let the game come to me, and it started to flow," Gasol said. "I felt much more comfortable in the second half. I'm all about winning and having the opportunity to be with this team is something amazing."
Acquired last Friday in a blockbuster deal with the Memphis Grizzlies, the 7-foot Spaniard shook off a foul-plagued first half and sparked the Lakers in the fourth. He made a key play with less than six minutes remaining, securing a loose ball under the Lakers' basket and making a layup as he was fouled to jump start an 11-2 run.
Gasol sank the ensuing free throw to give Los Angeles an 87-81 lead and displayed his passing skills with a no-look assist to Fisher for a layup 33 seconds later.
Gasol added a layup with 3:03 remaining and sealed the game with a short jumper with 91 seconds to go, bringing the numerous Lakers fans in attendance to their feet.
"I'm not surprised at all," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "He's a skilled ballplayer. He obviously helps us make plays. He helped us get control of the game."
Gasol was inserted into the starting lineup at the last minute despite having just one practice with the team. He received a loud ovation during pre-game introductions and played 35 minutes - more than any Laker other than Bryant and Lamar Odom.
"I was a little surprised that I played so much after only one practice, but I was happy to be out there and contribute," Gasol said. "I was pretty comfortable. I still don't know a lot of wrinkles and details (of the triangle offense), but my teammates helped me out a lot throughout the whole game."
It was a much-needed boost for the Lakers as Bryant made just 2-of-11 shots after the injury and did not score in the fourth quarter. He was 3-of-13 overall and did not attempt a free throw.
"That just shows the player that Kobe is," said Nets point guard Jason Kidd, who guarded Bryant for much of the game. "If his shot is not going, he found Gasol or whoever else. Because he gets so much attention, he found the open guys and Pau can help take care of that load."
Bryant was held to single digits for the first time since January 5, 2007 - a span of 94 regular-season games. He had been on a tear of late, averaging more than 34.0 points on 54 percent (84-of-156) shooting his previous seven games.
But Bryant only attempted two shots in the first quarter before suffering the injury, which should not keep him out of any future games.
"I went for a loose ball and my finger for caught on Jason's arm," Bryant said. "As I went one way, my finger went the other way. It's pretty sore, it just feels like I have four fingers. It feels like it's not there."
Fisher made 9-of-18 shots, including 4-of-7 3-pointers, Vladimir Radmanovic scored 16 points and Odom added 14 and 15 rebounds as the Lakers won their third straight since the trade was announced.
Vince Carter scored 27 points on just 10-of-26 shooting, reserve Bostjan Nachbar added 19 and Kidd collected 11 and 10 assists for the Nets, who have lost 11 of their last 13 games.
New Jersey's leading scorer, Richard Jefferson, also suffered an injury when he caught an elbow from Odom in the head early in the game. He received stitches and returned in the second quarter but managed just 12 points on 4-of-10 shooting.
There were 12 lead changes through the first three quarters, and Jefferson made consecutive baskets to bring the Nets within 84-81 with 6:13 remaining before Gasol's key three-point play.
LA LAKERS 105
NEW JERSEY 90 FINAL
Feb 5 10:01 PM
LA LAKERS 75
NEW JERSEY 71 END, 3RD QTR
Feb 5 9:36 PM
LA LAKERS 47
NEW JERSEY 47 HALFTIME
Feb 5 8:41 PM
LA LAKERS 26
NEW JERSEY 27 END, 1ST QTR
Feb 5 8:07 PM
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