With the game on the line in the fourth quarter, the Lakers suddenly could not keep 33-year-old Jared Dudley from gashing their defense.
The 12-year veteran scored 10 of his 13 points in the final period, helping lift Brooklyn to a 115-110 victory over L.A.
“All respect to Dudley, he’s been a very good NBA player for years,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said, “but he shouldn’t be blowing by anyone at this stage of his career.”
Every time the Lakers (18-13) pulled close late, the Nets (14-18) had an answer.
L.A. cut its deficit to just two with four minutes left, following a cutting dunk by Lonzo Ball and a Kyle Kuzma 3-pointer. But Brooklyn rebutted with layups from Joe Harris and Dudley.
Ball hit a triple; Dudley made a tough jumper. LeBron James tipped in a miss; D’Angelo Russell sunk a clutch trey against his former team.
LeBron followed with a sizzling step-back 3-pointer from the corner, but the Nets then iced the game on free throws.
“We can’t have [defensive] breakdowns in the clutch like that,” Kuzma said. “That’s our job to fix that.”
The end result spoiled strong games from all three Lakers who scored in that final rally.
LeBron was his usual, dominant self, dropping 36 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists. He pounded the Nets’ interior with drives and cuts, scoring as many points in the paint (22) as any Brooklyn player had total.
Meanwhile, the Nets dared Lonzo to shoot, and he gladly accepted. With that additional airspace, Ball hit five 3-pointers en route to a season-high 23 points (before fouling out late).
Kuzma added 22 points and 11 rebounds of his own, doing much of his own damage off the dribble.
Yet despite all three Lakers scoring as much or more than any Net, Brooklyn banded together for victory.
Russell led the Nets with 22 points of his own, while keeping the game on a string with 13 assists. He had plenty of targets to find on a Brooklyn club that has now won six straight.
Much of its firepower came from the bench, which outscored the Lakers’ 48-18.
The Lakers’ reserves were outgunned, in part, because of a lack of depth due to injuries, as JaVale McGee (flu), Brandon Ingram (ankle sprain) and Rajon Rondo (broken hand) all missed the game.
With Ingram and Rondo out for the entire road trip, and McGee missing half of it, the Lakers went 1-3 away from STAPLES Center, where they will return for Friday’s contest against New Orleans.
“Time to let it hurt, get back home, get back to work and get better,” Walton said.