The Los Angeles Lakers rallied from a 23-point fourth-quarter deficit to tie the score but were unable to regain the lead in a 122-115 loss to the Brooklyn Nets Saturday evening in the first event at the renamed Crypto.com Arena.
The Lakers tied the score with 45 seconds left on Malik Monk’s layup but never scored again.
Center Nic Claxton broke the tie with a alley-oop dunk off a pass from James Harden with 40.7 seconds remaining and added a free throw to complete the 3-point play. Russell Westbrook missed a dunk attempt on the Lakers’ next possession. Harden made four free throws over the final 20.6 seconds to seal the victory in front of the customary capacity crowd of 18,997.
The loss was the Lakers’ fourth in four games since forward-center Anthony Davis was sidelined by a sprained MCL in his left knee suffered Dec. 17, extended their season-high losing streak to five games and dropped their record to two games under .500 for the first time since losing the opening two games of the season.
LeBron James scored a game-high 39 points for the Lakers, including 13 in the fourth quarter, to become the NBA’s career Christmas Day scoring record holder with 422 points in his record-tying 16 games. Kobe Bryant had the previous record with 395 points in 16 Christmas Day games.
Harden led the Nets with 36 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists, the third time a player has scored at least 35 points, had at least 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a Christmas Day game. Oscar Robertson accomplished the feat in 1961 and 1963.
Fellow Brooklyn guard Patty Mills added a career-high-equaling 34, making eight 3-point baskets, a Christmas Day record. The previous record was seven, set by Brandon Ingram of the New Orleans Hornets in 2019 and tied last year by Kyrie Irving of the Nets and Duncan Robinson of the Miami Heat.
Monk added 20 in 35:07 off the bench in his first game since Dec. 12. He had been in the health and safety protocols the previous five games.
“He really gave us a huge, huge boost tonight,” Lakers acting coach David Fizdale said.
The Lakers trailed 107-84 with 10 minutes, 39 seconds to play, then scored 17 consecutive points to cut the deficit to 107-101 with 7:08 left, with Monk making two 3-point baskets during the run and James one.
The Lakers were outscored 38-23 in the first quarter and trailed by as many as 17 in the second quarter, before rallying to trail 66-62 at halftime. Wayne Ellington and Carmelo Anthony began the third quarter with back-to-back baskets to put the Lakers ahead 68-66, their first lead since 2-0.
The Lakers had one other lead, 70-68.
“It’s just a tale of quarters,” Fizdale said. “We gave up 38 and we came back and score 39. We give up 36, go back and score 33. We couldn’t put together consecutive quarters for whatever reason. There were too many waves in the game and not enough consistent solid basketball play through four quarters.”
Three Lakers and seven Nets missed the game because of the NBA’s health and safety protocols. The Lakers were also without guard Avery Bradley, who started 21 of 29 games before entering the protocols Dec. 16. He cleared the protocols Saturday but did not play because of what the NBA terms “coach’s decision.”
Lakers coach Frank Vogel missed his fourth consecutive game because of the health and safety protocols with Fizdale remaining winless as acting coach.
Nets sidelined by the protocols included Kevin Durant, the NBA’s leading scorer, Irving, a seven-time all-star guard, and two rookies who made their first starts in Brooklyn’s most recent game before Saturday, forward Kessler Edwards — an alumnus of Etiwanda High in Rancho Cucamonga and Pepperdine — and guard Cam Thomas.
Irving, who has not been vaccinated for the coronavirus, was ineligible to play or practice with the team at the start of the season because of New York City’s vaccine mandate.
The Nets announced on Dec. 17 that Irving would return to the team as a part-time player for games outside of New York City and Toronto, following a large number players lost to injuries and health and safety protocols and the high number of minutes that fellow perennial all-star James Harden has been playing.
Irving has not played this season.
Durant also has what the team describes as right ankle soreness. The 6-foot-10-inch forward missed last Saturday’s game, a 100-93 loss to the Orlando Magic, because of the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Durant is averaging a league-high 29.7 points per game.
Both teams have signed four players to 10-day contracts pursuant to the NBA Hardship Exception provisions. NBA rosters are limited to 15 players, but under an agreement reached Sunday between the league and its players’ union, a team is allowed to sign a replacement player for each positive COVID-19 case that crops up across its roster.
The Lakers signed 34-year-old former Etiwanda High and UCLA standout Darren Collison to a 10-day contract Friday. He was scoreless in 12 minutes, five seconds of play Saturday in his first game since April 21, 2019 when he scored 19 points for the Indiana Pacers in a 110-106 loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 4 of an Eastern Conference first-round playoff series.
“He competed his tail off and looked like an NBA player out on the basketball court,” Fizdale said. “That’s pretty darn good for a guy who was just at home.”
Collison announced his retirement from the NBA on June 28, 2019 after 10 seasons in the league.
“Basketball has been my life since I was a child. I could never imagine finding anything that brings me more joy than I get from playing the game,” he wrote in an article published on June 28, 2019 on The Undefeated, the ESPN-owned website focusing on issues of race in sports.
“While I still love basketball, I know there is something more important, which is my family and my faith. I am one of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and my faith means everything to me. I receive so much joy from volunteering to help others and participate in a worldwide ministry. The joy I feel is unmatched. With that being said, I have decided to retire from the NBA.”
Forward Stanley Johnson scored seven points in 27:25 off the bench one day after signing a 10-day contract with the Lakers.
Brooklyn was playing for the first time since last Saturday. The Nets’ last three games were postponed because of the number of players in the health and safety protocols. Brooklyn’s 22-9 record is the best in the Eastern Conference and ties Utah for the third-best in the league. The Nets have a league-best 12-3 road record.
Lakers played on Christmas Day for the 23rd consecutive year. The last time the Lakers didn’t play on Christmas Day was in 1998, when the owners’ lockout of the players delayed the start of the season until February.
The Lakers have won a record 24 Christmas Day games, one more than the New York Knicks.
The Lakers are 24-24 on Christmas Day, including a 4-8 record in their last 12 Christmas Day games. They were 138-115 winners over the Dallas Mavericks last Christmas.
The Lakers have played on Christmas Day 48 times, second-most in NBA history behind the Knicks, who have played on Christmas Day 54 times.
The Nets played on Christmas Day for the second consecutive year after not playing on Christmas Day since 2013. They are 6-5 on Christmas Day since entering the league in 1976.
A new logo and other branding assets, including internal arena signage, were introduced Saturday as part of Crypto.com’s 20-year naming rights agreement with AEG, the arena’s owner, announced Nov. 17.
Terms of the agreement were not announced, though the Los Angeles Times reported the cryptocurrency platform paid more than $700 million to replace the office supply chain Staples for the naming rights, according to sources familiar with the terms, making it one of the biggest naming deals in sports history.