Only twice last season had the Lakers failed to score more than 80 points; only five times had they lost at home; and only seven times had they lost by double-digits.
Then there was Friday night.
Because when the Dallas Mavericks came into Los Angeles sporting their brand new powder blue alternate uniforms on the day before Halloween, it was almost as if they’d brought along a few bright blue smurfs to sit on the rim.
LA just couldn’t find the bottom of the net – nor keep it out of its own – in a somewhat lethargic effort, and the purple and gold fell by 14 to a swarming Blue Man Group.
“That’s one of the longest nights we’ve had here in this building,” said Phil Jackson. “Every time we got momentum, somehow or other we shot ourselves in our own foot.”
The first quarter served as a harbinger for the rest of the game, as the Lakers opened by hitting only 7-of-24 shots (29.2 percent) before Jordan Farmar broke through (the smurfs) for five straight points in under a minute to salvage the quarter trailing by only three.
That was nothing compared to the third quarter, when the Lakers committed more turnovers (seven) than they made field goals (six). That resulted in 15 points, while the Mavericks went the other way in scoring 26 to open up a 22-point lead that was mercifully cut to four with a Kobe Bryant layup and Josh Powell put-back in the final minute.
Now, if the Lakers were looking for excuses, a few obvious ones were readily available: Pau Gasol, so key to their offensive rhythm, missed his second straight game (hamstring), and the team hadn’t played a game in three days since the season opening victory over the Clippers, including a Wednesday off from practice.
That certainly didn’t impress Phil Jackson, who found a more tangible explanation for the loss.
“Our rhythm wasn’t good on offense,” said he of 10 titles. ” Defensively we didn’t read this team well at all. Their defense was solid, and we just tried to do things with one pass and hope to beat somebody one-on-one rather than playing team basketball on the offensive end.”
L.A. did finally come to life in the fourth, scoring the first eight points to cap a 12-0 run – which included a monster put-back slam by Shannon Brown – that almost became 15 when Ron Artest’s corner three rimmed out. Instead, Nowitzki converted a layup to get the lead back to 14 at 80-66, and Dallas never looked back.
Bryant’s struggles from the field were emblematic of the team’s, as he managed just 6-of-19 for the game. Derek Fisher fared no better, converting only 2-of-9 shots, while Ron Artest missed five of the six shots he took, committed five fouls and was whistled for a technical.
Perhaps the only good news for L.A. is they have to wait only a day before getting back in the mix for a Sunday game against Atlanta.
Until then, some numbers:
2 Double-doubles in as many games for Andrew Bynum, his 14 and 10 coming in the first three quarters before he found a permanent seat on the bench.
5 Home losses for the Lakers in 2008-09, the best in the league.
7 Times the Lakers lost by double-digits last season.
12 Points off L.A.’s bench from Shannon Brown, who was very effective at both ends. He hit two threes, grabbed three boards, dished two assists and gathered two steals, all punctuated by a monster put-back slam when he climbed high into the air and finished with two hands.
18 More free throws taken by Dallas (32) than L.A. (14), as L.A. was whistled for 29 personal fouls to 21 from the Mavs.
39.5 L.A.’s shooting percentage for the game.
41 Bench points scored by Dallas, paced by 16 from Jason Terry and 12 from J.J. Barea. L.A., by comparison, scored 28 bench points.