Carterís D Smothers Kobe as Nets Win
New Jersey 92, L.A. Lakers 89
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., March 17 (Ticker) -- Vince Carter discovered the secret to preventing Kobe Bryant from making a clutch shot in the final seconds: Don't let him get the ball.
Carter shadowed Bryant as the clock ticked away before forcing him to fire an airball 3-pointer at the buzzer that allowed the New Jersey Nets to hold on for their fourth straight win, a 92-89 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Slumping a bit, Bryant nevertheless came in leading the NBA in scoring at just under 35 points per game. Carter, not known for his defense, accepted the challenge and limited his fellow superstar to 24 points on 9-of-24 shooting.
In fairness to Bryant, he was hampered by foul trouble and looked to involve his teammates, collecting a season-high 11 assists. But on the final possession, he was looking for his shot.
"You just keep trying to play aggressive until you foul out," Bryant said.
Carter did all he could to prevent a game-tying shot, denying Bryant the ball until just over four seconds remained. Well above the 3-point arc on the left side, Bryant could not juke Carter and launched a long, fading shot that did not draw iron.
"I was trying to deny him as long as possible, at least eight of the 13 seconds, just to make it a tougher shot and push him out as far as I could," Carter said. "I just wanted to keep my hands up and make it a tough shot."
"(The play) was designed to get a decent shot, but it started out wrong," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "We had an extra timeout but we didn't take it. We got the ball to Kobe wrong and eveything crumbled from there."
Lakers forward Lamar Odom inbounded the ball to Brian Cook, who passed to Luke Walton before the ball finally made its way to Bryant.
"They made a great read defensively," Bryant said. "They were able to switch and take the play away from us. We should've called a timeout. We'll just learn from it."
"They've been running that play," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "It's a Red Holzman play and they execute it extremely well. You have to give Vince a lot of credit. He wanted the challenge and took it."
A follow shot by Carter had given the Nets a 90-84 lead with 1:35 remaining. Bryant responded with a tough driving bank shot and a crosscourt pass to Smush Parker, who drained a 3-pointer to make it 90-89 with 34 seconds left.
Carter missed a driving shot that Krstic, who made 11-of-15 shots, tapped in with his left hand with 13 seconds to go, forcing the Lakers to look for a 3-pointer on their last possession.
"We had our opportunity to get a stop and we couldn't," Jackson said. "Krstic was way too active for us all night."
"It started with Vince's intent to get to the paint," Frank said. "Vince getting into the paint gave (Krstic) an oppoortunity to get a rebound."
Carter scored 24 points on 9-of-24 shooting and Richard Jefferson added 16 for the Nets.
Jason Kidd continued to battle a head cold and dished out 14 assists but had just five points on 2-of-12 shooting. He went scoreless for seven consecutive quarters before burying a jumper midway through the fourth period.
Odom collected 18 points and 13 rebounds and Parker scored 13 points as the Lakers (34-33) lost the opener of a three-game road trip and remained virtually tied with Sacramento for seventh place in the Western Conference playoff race.
"This is a big road trip for us," Bryant said. "We can't sulk for one game. We have to keep our heads up and move on to the next one."
Bryant made just two of his first nine shots but scored the final eight points of the first half, burying two 3-pointers and a pair of free throws in 69 seconds to give Los Angeles a 48-43 advantage.
New Jersey opened the third quarter nine straight points, taking the lead for good on a layup by Jason Collins just 1:43 into the second half. Krstic had nine points, two rebounds and two assists in the third quarter while Carter and Kidd made just 1-of-7 shots.
"(Krstic) was phenomenal throughout the game," Frank said. "He really played with a great deal of assertiveness."