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Collins debuts for Nets in win over Lakers

The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- Jason Collins said the only difference in Sunday's game was being the center of attention. Usually, he is used to being one of the role players who blend in with the crowd.

But this wasn't just an ordinary game.

Collins became the first openly gay player to appear in an NBA game, and his Brooklyn Nets ended their losing ways against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.

Point guard Deron Williams compiled 30 points, seven assists, six steals and five rebounds, and forward Paul Pierce produced 18 of his 25 points in the first half, leading the Nets to a 108-102 victory over the Lakers before an announced crowd of 18,997 at Staples Center.

The win allowed the Nets (26-28) to snap an 11-game losing streak to the Lakers (19-37). Los Angeles, which stopped a franchise-record, eight-game home losing streak when they beat the Boston Celtics on Friday night, lost for the fifth time in six games overall.

Collins, who signed a 10-day contract with Brooklyn earlier in the day, entered the game with 10:28 left in the second quarter. The 35-year-old center and 12-year NBA veteran played for the first time since announcing he was gay last year. He received a warm reception.

"I thought it was great," Collins said of the greeting. "Being an L.A. kid, I can't think of a better situation, playing for the Nets and playing here and getting the win. Just glad Kobe (Bryant) and Shaq (O'Neal) weren't out there."

Collins finished with no points, two rebounds, one steal and five fouls in 11 minutes.

"I thought he did great," Nets coach Jason Kidd said.

Said Collins, "It was a lot fun to get back out on the court. I set screens, hard fouls. I didn't take any charges tonight, but that will change. It felt good back out there out on the court and get my teammates open. The most important thing is the team got the win. I don't care about scoring. I care about my team winning."

Brooklyn held off several rallies by the Lakers in the fourth quarter to prevail. Williams scored 11 points in the final quarter as the Nets beat the Lakers for the first time since Nov. 25, 2007.

"I think for 48 minutes we had a pretty good game," Kidd said. "They made a run, and games are about runs. We got off to a good start on a back-to-back, which was encouraging, but the thing we have to do is finish the game the right way. We could have probably ended it a little earlier, but you have to give the Lakers credit, they kept fighting."

The Nets, who led by as many as 19 in the first half, cruised to a 63-47 lead at the break. They converted 57.9 percent (22 of 38) of their first-half field-goal attempts, including seven of 14 on 3-pointers, compared to 46.3 percent (19 of 41) for the Lakers. Los Angeles made four of eight from behind the arc before intermission.

Overall, Brooklyn shot 47.4 percent (36 of 76) to 51.3 percent (39 of 76) for the Lakers.

The Lakers, who never led, rallied in the third quarter. A 3-point basket by reserve forward MarShon Brooks pulled them to within 80-74, but two 3-pointers by forward Mirza Teletovic increased Brooklyn's lead to 86-74 heading into the fourth quarter.

A tip-in by Brooks cut the margin to 89-83 with about nine minutes remaining, and forward Nick Young's basket pulled the Lakers to within four. However, the Nets padded their lead again when Williams nailed a jumper for a 97-86 advantage with 5:47 remaining.

The Lakers closed to within four points but got no closer.

Forward Pau Gasol scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead Los Angeles. Guard Jodie Meeks finished with 19 points, while forward Kent Bazemore, obtained in a trade last week, posted a career-high 17 points.

NOTES: Nets PG Deron Williams entered the game with an 0-18 record against the Lakers in Staples Center. ... Brooklyn F Kevin Garnett got the night off because the contest was the second of back-to-back games. The Nets lost to the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night in Oakland. ... Lakers F Nick Young returned after missing six games due to a fracture in his left knee. Young, who finished with 10 points in 20 minutes, said he still is experiencing pain in the knee. ... Los Angeles fielded its 29th starting lineup in 56 games. ... Boxing champion Floyd Mayweather Jr., who celebrated his 36th birthday Sunday, was roundly booed when his image was shown on the video board in the second quarter.
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