By John Torenli
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
For the first time in 55 years, a Brooklyn pro sports franchise traveled to Los Angeles on Tuesday night.
Only this time, they’ll be coming home, albeit after a very tough loss.
Deron Williams missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer with four seconds remaining as Kobe Bryant and the Lakers held off the Nets for a 95-90 victory that ended Brooklyn’s season-high five-game winning streak in Mike D’Antoni’s debut on the bench for Los Angeles.
Bryant drilled two free throws with 4.8 left on the clock to give the Lakers a 93-90 lead before Williams’ bid to send the game into overtime rimmed out and was rebounded by Los Angeles’ long-time superstar, who promptly made another two from the line to settle matters.
“Tough loss for us,” admitted Williams, who finished with 22 points and 10 assists while playing 37 minutes of turnover-free basketball. “We missed some shots down the stretch. I got a pretty good look. I think we’re right there. We just have to make those shots.”
The loss was Brooklyn’s first since a humbling 103-73 defeat against the defending NBA champion Miami Heat on Nov. 7. The Nets responded to that setback by knocking off Orlando twice, blowing out Cleveland, edging the perennial Atlantic Division champion Boston Celtics and beating Sacramento in the opener of their current three-game West Coast swing.
Forward Gerald Wallace, playing his second game since returning from an ankle injury suffered in the Nets’ season-opening win over Toronto at Barclays Center, also missed a key 3-pointer in the final two minutes that would have given Brooklyn a six-point lead.
“I think this was a game that we easily could have won,” lamented Wallace, who had seven points, five steals and five rebounds. “We fought all the way to the end and gave ourselves a chance to win. We’re starting to come along. The Miami game may have been a wake-up call for us to let us know what we have to do to beat [the best] teams. I missed some open shots that I have to make for this team to be successful. I take this loss tonight.”
After Williams’ miss, Wallace began gabbing with Bryant as he took the line for the game-clinching free throws.
“I was trying to get him to close his eyes and shoot,” Wallace revealed.
Though his playful banter got Bryant’s attention, it couldn’t stop the two-time Finals MVP from sending the Nets off to the Bay Area for Wednesday night’s game against the Golden State Warriors with a bad taste in their mouths.
The Nets (6-3) fell two games behind the first-place Knicks (8-1) with Monday night’s East River showdown on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues looming on the schedule.
Brooklyn coach Avery Johnson admitted his team missed a prime opportunity to knock off one of the league’s marquee franchises on its home floor at Staples Center, but wasn’t overly chagrined by the Nets’ performance.
“We missed a wide-open 3 at the end, but again, I think offensively, had we made a few more shots, we would have been in better shape,” he said. “I thought our defense was really respectable tonight. I’m proud of our guys.”
D’Antoni, the former Knicks coach who took the position with the Lakers after they courted Phil Jackson earlier this month, watched his team run out to an early 10-0 lead before the Nets could find their bearings.
“Those first five minutes they really came out and tried to hit us. But we fought back,” said Brooklyn center Brook Lopez, who had 23 points and seven rebounds.
The Nets outscored Los Angeles 34-27 to take a 57-56 advantage into the half.
Unfortunately, Brooklyn squandered a six-point lead over the final five minutes, missing a chance to get some revenge on the City of Angels for swiping out Dodgers back in 1957.
''It was definitely frustrating,'' Williams said. ''We were right there and we battled the whole game. We had control of the game at one point, but we didn't make shots down the stretch.”
Hoop du Jour: The Nets have lost their last nine meetings with the Lakers. Los Angeles with visit the Barclays Center on Feb. 5 for the second and final regular-season game between the clubs this season. … Lakers center Dwight Howard, who admitted he wanted to be a Net this past summer before the Orlando Magic dealt him to Los Angeles in a three-team blockbuster, finished with 23 points, 15 rebounds and four blocked shots against Brooklyn. … D’Antoni admitted that he’s still a bit hobbled by a recent knee surgery, which prevented him from assuming his duties on the bench after accepting the Lakers job last week. ''I was a little peg-legged, but it was good,'' D'Antoni said. ''Adrenaline is a great thing. I'm good, (but) jumping is a thing of the past.'' … After visiting the Warriors, Brooklyn will return to Barclays to host the Clippers on Friday and the TrailBlazers on Sunday before the Knicks show up Monday night. … The Nets got into the holiday spirit last week in Bed-Stuy, serving free Thanksgiving Day meals to Brooklynites at St. John’s Bread and Life on Lexington Avenue. Williams, Joe Johnson and several other Nets were on hand for the charity event.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle