(AP) — After a rough stretch near the end of December, the Los Angeles Lakers are back to their winning ways. A visit from the lowly New Jersey Nets could help them continue that success.
The Lakers look for a seventh consecutive victory overall and against the Nets on Friday night at Staples Center.
Los Angeles (29-11) averaged 80.3 points on 40.3 percent shooting while losing three straight to Milwaukee, Miami and San Antonio from Dec. 21-28.
Since that skid, the Lakers are putting up 103.8 per game and shooting 49.5 percent while winning eight of nine. They have allowed 91.0 points per game over that span.
“I think we are still a work in progress of getting better as a team, and especially defensively, which is always a key factor,” forward Pau Gasol told the Lakers’ official website.
After a 112-57 rout of Cleveland on Tuesday, Los Angeles overcame a 14-point deficit to beat Golden State 115-110 the next night.
Kobe Bryant scored 17 of his 39 points in the final 5:49 to highlight the Lakers’ 46-point fourth quarter.
“It don’t matter who’s on me. When it’s go time, it’s go time,” Bryant said. “You have the responsibility to come through for your team and make the right play.”
Bryant scored 25 of his 32 points in the second half of a 99-92 win at New Jersey on Dec. 12. He’s averaged 30.3 percent on 54.2 percent shooting the last three games against the Nets.
“He always has that look. Nine times out of 10 he’s successful,” teammate Ron Artest said about Bryant’s ability to take over late in a game. “Actually, it’s like 9.5 times out of 10 he’s successful.”
The Lakers have averaged 113.0 points while winning two straight at home over New Jersey (10-28), which looks to avoid a seventh consecutive road loss.
New Jersey came close to ending that skid in Wednesday but opened a four-game western trip with a 118-109 overtime loss to Phoenix. The Nets led by 11 after three quarters but were outscored 45-25 in the fourth quarter and overtime.
“Our guys played hard the whole game and we definitely gave ourselves a shot but we just fell short and that’s how we have to play every game,” forward Brook Lopez told the Nets’ official website.
Sasha Vujacic scored 19 points off the bench as the Nets topped 100 for the first time in nine games – eight of which were losses. This will be Vujacic’s first game against his former team after he was acquired from the Lakers on Dec. 15 as part of a three-team trade.
The Nets continue to play through the distraction of potentially acquiring Denver stars Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups in a three-team deal.
Devin Harris, who could be sent to Denver along with rookie first-round pick Derrick Favors in the proposed trade, had 15 with a season-high 15 assists Wednesday. He had 16, 10 assists and eight rebounds against the Lakers last month.
Lopez has averaged 20.4 points and 10.4 rebounds in five games versus Los Angeles but 11.0 and 4.0 boards the last five overall.
Updated January 13, 2011
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