LOS ANGELES -- When Pau Gasol made his Lakers debut back in February following his trade from the Memphis Grizzlies, he led Los Angeles to a 15-point victory at New Jersey on a night when Kobe Bryant had the lowest-scoring game of his MVP campaign.
Things looked eerily similar against the Nets on Tuesday night in the rematch at Staples Center. Gasol had 26 points and eight rebounds before sitting out the fourth quarter, and the defending Western Conference champions overcame Bryant's shooting woes in a 120-93 rout that improved the NBA's best record to 12-1.
"I think it's a good sign and it's a healthy sign," coach Phil Jackson said after the Lakers' most lopsided victory ever against the Nets. "But we want Kobe to shoot the ball well and have big games, obviously. That's the focal part of our offense -- to get things through him. We want to have him be the threat, so that everybody has to overplay and always be concerned with him. That makes everybody else have an easier game."
Bryant had difficulty with Vince Carter's defense, going 5-for-17 from the field in 28 minutes and finishing with 12 points in the Lakers' fifth consecutive victory. He shot 1-for-9 in the first half and didn't get to the free-throw line until 1:11 remained in the second quarter. The last time they met, the two-time scoring champion was outscored 27-6 by Carter and shot 3-for-13 with no free-throw attempts.
"It just shows you their balance," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "I think that's the greatness of the Lakers. Kobe is obviously one of the elite players in this league, but they have so much around him. They are a high-level team. They're 12-1, and they have Gasol from the beginning now."
Devin Harris had 21 points and six assists for the Nets, who again played without Stromile Swift (back), Josh Boone (bruised left ankle) and Chris Douglas-Roberts (right knee strain). Eduardo Najera, who has an injured back, did not make the trip.
Yi Jianlian had 13 points and nine rebounds for the Nets, who shot only 34.5 percent and went 3-for-19 in the fourth quarter while getting outscored 30-17. Carter scored 14 points before sitting out the final 6:51. Rookie center Brook Lopez made four of his first five shots, but went 2-for-10 the rest of the way and finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
"We did not play like the Nets tonight," Harris said. "The ball was not moving and we took bad shots. I can put that on myself, because I started that trend."
Lakers big man Andrew Bynum picked up his fourth foul midway through the third quarter with his team ahead 70-66, but his teammates responded with an 11-4 spurt and took a 90-76 lead into the fourth. The second unit opened the period with a 15-2 run, including 3-pointers by Sasha Vujacic, Jordan Farmar and Lamar Odom, and capped it on an 18-footer by Trevor Ariza that gave Los Angeles a 105-78 cushion with 8:19 left.
"Their bench was tremendous," Carter said. "I thought their second unit was the difference. If you do not match their energy and play your 'A' game, you will not beat this team -- especially here."
The Nets missed their first eight shots of the fourth before ending the drought on a 20-footer by Trenton Hassell with 5:24 remaining. By then, the Lakers led 113-88.
"Their bench was huge -- guys like Jordan Farmar and Lamar Odom and the intensity they brought," Frank said. "Then we just started taking a bunch of shots and lost our way a little bit, and never responded to their run. That's why it's 48 minutes. We're not going to win many games shooting the way we did and then compounding that with poor defense."
Gasol, who had 24 points and 12 rebounds against the Nets in the 105-90 victory last February, paced the Lakers to a 56-54 halftime lead with 16 points.
"Our emphasis was the inside game," Jackson said. "They have a lot of young players on the interior, so I thought both Pau and Andrew would be players we could feature as far as getting the ball inside. But Pau made outside shots, too. He played a fine game. We just like his overall game -- defensively and the way he talks and helps people through the defensive situations."
- The Nets won their first 13 games after Frank replaced Byron Scott as head coach on Jan. 26, 2004. Since that streak, they are 184-184 in the regular season and 18-20 in the playoffs.
- The Nets had allowed 30 or more points by an opposing player in each of their previous five games and seven of eight.
- Yi, the Nets' 7-foot forward, made a 3-pointer in the first quarter and is 23-for-57 from behind the arc in 79 NBA games. The other four 7-footers who were in uniform -- Gasol, Bynum, Lopez and Lakers reserve center Chris Mihm -- have yet to attempt a 3-point shot this season.
- The Nets did not attempt a free throw until 6:56 remained in the first half.
- The Lakers are 7-6 against the Nets since sweeping them in the 2002 NBA Finals.