LOS ANGELES: The New Jersey Nets matched the worst start to an NBA season with their 17th straight loss Sunday night, with Kobe Bryant scoring 30 points in the Los Angeles Lakers' 106-87 victory.
New Jersey Nets interim coach Tom Barrise yells to his team during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Nov 29, 2009, in Los Angeles. [Agencies]
A few hours after New Jersey fired coach Lawrence Frank, the undermanned Nets had little prayer of keeping up with the defending league champions, who won their sixth straight game.
Falling behind by 27 points in the first half despite clearly playing hard for temporary head coach Tom Barrise, the Nets matched the starts of the 1988-89 Miami Heat and the 1999 Los Angeles Clippers.
New Jersey must beat the Dallas Mavericks back home in the East Rutherford swamp on Wednesday night to avoid sole possession of an embarrassing NBA record.
Pau Gasol had 20 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers, who cruised to their 12th win in 14 games. Jordan Farmar added 15 points as the Lakers made 13 of their 25 3-point attempts, including five by Bryant and three for Farmar.
Brook Lopez had 26 points and 12 rebounds for New Jersey, which went scoreless for nearly 4 1/2 minutes in the first quarter while Los Angeles posted 13 straight points to build a 27-10 lead.
Bryant's fourth 3-pointer of the first half put Los Angeles up 57-30 shortly before halftime. The Lakers led by 34 midway through the third quarter, and Bryant left the game with 4:14 left in the third.
The NBA's lowest-scoring and worst-shooting team lived up to its dire statistics, managing just 60 points on 38.7-percent shooting in the first three periods before a strong fourth quarter against Los Angeles' reserves. Although New Jersey consistently tried to match up on defense, the Nets don't have a fraction of the Lakers' talent.
The Lakers' public address announcer recognized the Nets' historic loss after the game, though he had the decency to wait until New Jersey was in its locker room.
The Nets didn't wait until returning from their four-game West Coast trip before dumping Frank, the winningest coach in franchise history and the Eastern Conference's longest-tenured coach.
Although eight Nets already have missed multiple games this season with injuries after New Jersey traded star Vince Carter in the offseason, Frank was held responsible for the woeful start, which included three straight double-digit losses earlier on this trip. Guard Rafer Alston compared the Nets' roster to an awful poker hand, saying Frank was dealt "a pair of 2's, and he tried to fight."
Barrise, Frank's assistant since the start of his tenure in early 2004, could be just a one-game replacement. Nets general manager Kiki Vandeweghe and assistant John Loyer are considered the top candidates to replace Frank for the rest of the season.
Barrise made the most of perhaps his only chance to be an NBA head coach. The former bench boss at Ramapo College in Mahwah, NJ, stood for nearly every minute of the game, clapping for his players' successes and stomping his feet in disgust at their many foibles.