Rapid Reaction: Nets 108, Lakers 102
February, 23, 2014
By Dave McMenamin
LOS ANGELES -- In what was supposed to be a lazy Sunday matchup between two sub .500 teams -- a game that was considered to have such little juice that it was dropped from the national TV broadcast schedule despite featuring teams from the two biggest markets in the country -- suddenly became a landmark event in the history of American pro sports.
The Brooklyn Nets signed Jason Collins to a 10-day contract Sunday morning, and when the backup center stepped on to the court against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night, he became the first openly gay athlete to play in a game in the history of the four major professional sports in the U.S.
There was a tepid response in Staples Center when Collins entered the game. Better that it was a smattering of cheers than boisterous boos, of course, but the L.A. crowd responded to the substitution the way any crowd might when a 35-year-old with career averages of 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds checks in.
In that respect, it was a comforting moment of normalcy. Even though many national media outlets descended upon L.A. to document Collins breaking a significant barrier, in the moment it was just about a backup basketball player doing what he has done in the NBA for the past decade plus.
"I don't have time to really think about history right now," Collins said before the game. "I just have to focus on my job tonight."
Which is the same approach the Lakers took, trying to put together only their sixth winning streak of the season despite starting Kent Bazemore, who just joined the team three days ago.
Yet for another night, they were overmatched.
How it happened: The Nets led by as many as 19 in the first quarter, with Paul Pierce starting off blistering hot by scoring 14 of his 25 points on 5-for-5 shooting in the opening frame. L.A. trailed by 16 at halftime but used a 13-2 run early in the third quarter to draw to within eight and got it down to six after a 3-pointer from MarShon Brooks in the final minute of the third before the Nets got it right back up to 12 with consecutive 3s from Mirza Teletovic.
The Lakers stormed back in the fourth. Nick Young brought L.A. to within four by making a layup with 7:36 left in the final quarter and Jodie Meeks got it back to four again with 10.5 seconds left, but the Nets' Deron Williams tacked on two late free throws to give him 30 points and take home the win in a game his team never trailed.
What it means: Friday night's win against the Boston Celtics was a nice moment for Lakers fans looking to stick it to their longtime rivals, but Sunday was a return to reality. There's going to be plenty more losses over the final 26 games of the season.
Hits: With 10:28 remaining in the second quarter, Collins checked into the game for the Nets, making history.
L.A. outscored Brooklyn 58-36 in the paint.
Pau Gasol had a solid double-double of 22 points and 11 rebounds.
Bazemore scored 17 points in his first start as a Laker.
Jodie Meeks had 19 points on 7-for-13 shooting.
Misses: Jordan Farmar shot just 1-for-6.
L.A. allowed the Nets to shoot 12-for-25 on 3-pointers.
Stat of the game: 29. That's how many turnovers the Nets had, leading to 27 points for the Lakers, but it still wasn't enough to get L.A. the win.
Up next: L.A. has only a dozen road games left this season and will be down to 10 after its trip this week to play the Indiana Pacers and Memphis Grizzlies in a back-to-back Tuesday and Wednesday.