By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The crowd was split, and so was the scoreboard.
The Lakers and Nets were dead even at 80-80 with just over three minutes remaining Tuesday night before a sellout of 17,332 at Brooklyn's Barclays Center.
Kobe Bryant, the five-time NBA champion and former MVP, made sure to tip both the final result and the capacity crowd in Los Angeles' favor with a highlight-reel drive and dunk past a too-late Gerald Wallace and over a seemingly helpless Kris Humphries, sparking his shorthanded team to a 92-83 victory and ending Brooklyn's season-long dominance against sub-.500 opponents.
"[The lane] just parted like the Red Sea. So I felt a little like Moses," chuckled Bryant, who was putting in yeoman work without the services of suspended teammate Metta World Peace and injured center Dwight Howard.
The Lakers also lost power forward Pau Gasol to a foot injury down the stretch, leaving Bryant to take the game into his own more-than-capable hands.
Those who had packed the state-of-the-art arena in the hopes of catching a virtuoso performance by one of the winningest players in the post-Jordan era got their money's worth when the perennial All-Star followed his tiebreaking dunk with a driving layup that gave the Lakers a three-point lead with 1:42 remaining.
Bryant finished with 21 points, eight rebounds, four steals, four assists and a blocked shot, helping the suddenly resurgent Lakers to their sixth win in seven games and third in a row this month -- all on the road.
"It feels good to pull one out like this," admitted Bryant, who is aching to drive the underachieving Lakers (23-26) back into postseason contention as he chases a sixth ring.
The Nets (28-20), who entered the contest with a sparkling 17-0 mark against opponents with losing records, were in position to take advantage of the Lakers' thin lineup until Bryant made his statement jam.
''I don't know why, I thought we were ready for this game, but [I was] proven wrong tonight," lamented Nets point guard Deron Williams after putting up 15 points, six assists and committing five turnovers as Brooklyn fell to 2-4 in its last six games, dropping four lengths behind East River rival New York in the Atlantic Division standings.
Nets All-Star center Brook Lopez rose to the challenge over the first 45 1/2 minutes, leading Brooklyn with 30 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots. But the 7-footer from Stanford got caught watching the paint a little too long with the rest of his teammates during Bryant's rim-rocking jam.
"I just feel those [last] 2 1/2 minutes are about as bad as I played on both ends of the floor all season,'' a humbled Lopez admitted.
Joe Johnson scored 11 points on a miserable 4-of-15 shooting night as the Nets left Brooklyn on a down note for their two-game road trip through Detroit (Wednesday) and Washington (Friday). The Nets will return Downtown on Sunday to host San Antonio, which handed Brooklyn a humbling 31-point road loss in Texas on New Year's Eve.
In other Brooklyn sports news, the Engineers of Brooklyn Tech High School put together an impressive list of newly minted recruits on National Signing Day.
Tech running back James Gales (Princeton), defensive end Thomas Plosnski (Villanova) and wide receiver Kyvaune Brammer (Fordham) inked their agreements at the school's library Wednesday afternoon. Defensive end Benjamin Haye was honored with a $20,000 college scholarship in honor of former Tech football coach Adam J. Cirillo, and Engineers Mayor's Cup 195-pound champion wrestler Kevin Tynes attended the ceremony to celebrate his full academic scholarship to Stanford.
Other Brooklyn grid stars expected to sign Wednesday included: Fort Hamilton wideout Travon Reid Segure and lineman Armani Garrick, both of whom will attend Stony Brook in the fall, Sheepshead Bay lineman Rashaad Coward (Old Dominion), Poly Prep end Cameron Stapleton (UConn) and Lincoln lineman Wayne Williams (Syracuse).
Hoop du Jour: The Nets have lost their last 10 meetings against the Lakers and will try to snap a 10-game losing streak in Detroit Wednesday night. ... C Howard, who has constantly been mentioned in trade rumors for Lopez over the past two seasons, sat out for the third straight game with an injured shoulder. ... F World Peace was suspeded for striking Pistons guard Brandon Knight during the Lakers' win in Detroit on Sunday. ... F Reggie Evans grabbed 10-plus rebounds for the 19th time this season. ... G Williams is one assist away from 5,000 for his career. ... Brooklyn lost Tuesday despite outrebounding Los Angeles, 52-40, including a 20-5 edge off the offensive glass. ... C Lopez recorded his 10th double-double of the season.