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We took a look at the Lakers – Mavericks contest in Dallas while it was happening, entering a thought or three each quarter as the Lakers looked to win their third straight road game.
Lakers: Sasha Vujacic (shoulder)
Mavericks: Caron Butler (illness)
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Mavericks: Jason Kidd, DeShawn Stevenson, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, Brendan Haywood
How Good Is Dallas?
Few have questioned L.A.’s place as the team to beat in the Western Conference, particularly since the defending champion Lakers (43-14) have built a solid 5.5-game lead on second place Denver (37-19). But after making a trade with Washington that netted Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson for Josh Howard, James Singleton and Drew Gooden, the Dallas Mavericks (36-21) have thrust themselves into the “Who’s second best in the West?” argument along with Denver and Utah (36-20). For more CLICK HERE.
8:10 Dallas showed L.A. something that they didn’t have in the past early, as Brendan Haywood scored on a turnaround jump hook from the baseline over Bynum. Erick Dampier, out a month with an injury, is not a scorer. Bynum, however, responded moments later with an offensive rebound and stick-back over Haywood to put L.A. up 12-10, which was close to the score of the Canada – Russia Olympic hockey game.
2:14 On Tuesday night in Memphis, Kobe Bryant barely grazed the rim all night on a beautiful looking jump shot (particularly with his two threes in the final minute), but he was all over the orange cylinder on Wednesday. He missed his first five shots against Dallas, but Bynum (eight points on 4-of-4 shooting*) and Artest (five early points) helped the Lakers stay level.
*How easily had Bynum been scoring against Dallas? He was 8-of-8 on Jan. 3, 8-of-11 on Jan. 13 and began 4-of-4 in this one.
0:44.7 On back-to-backs, it’s typical of Phil Jackson to play his bench guys early, and Lamar Odom, Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar had all checked in by the three-minute mark. It was Farmar who made the final contribution of the quarter, using Brown’s steal to convert a tough and-1 layup in transition despite being fouled by Jason Kidd. That hoop put L.A. up 23-20 after one despite Kobe’s 0-for-5 start.
10:11 Odom had a spark of his own going to start the second, first nailing a three and then filling the lane for a lefty layup to make it 30-27 Lakers. Before the game, Phil Jackson was asked if he was at all worried with Odom’s rhythm being affected by Bryant’s return, particularly after his poor game against Memphis. Jackson’s response was, effectively, not at all.
7:07 As Odom scored again, getting to nine points to match Artest, LA revealed how its depth sometimes takes two games to showcase. Last night was all Kobe and Pau, but Odom/Artest/Bynum carried the Lakers early in this one, creating a 38-34 lead. In other news, Jay-Z and Beyonce were sitting courtside for the game, prompting the Mavs to put Beyonce’s SNL skit up on the jumbotron with the heads of Steve Nash, Manu Ginobili and Yao Ming in place of her dancers. Over/under on songs by those two played over loudspeakers: five (I’ll take the over).
3:25 Bryant hit for the first time on a tough baseline jumper, in the process passing Reggie Miller for 13th on the NBA’s all-time leading scoring list with 25,280 points. Up next is Alex English (25,613). Kobe then hit another jumper amidst L.A.’s 10-0 run, but the Mavs countered with a 10-2 run, including the final six points of the half, to get within one at 50-49.
7:20 Fisher made a ridiculous over-the-shoulder shot after being wrapped up be Stevenson on a breakaway, but the continuation bucket was waived off in favor of a clear path foul. Fish nailed both free throws and Bryant hit his third straight jumper, however, to make it a four-point possession. That helped the Lakers cut into what had become a five-point deficit when Dallas scored the first six points of the quarter.
5:45 Make that four straight jumpers for Bryant, who was scoreless in the first quarter but was clearly starting to heat up. That gave him 14 points on 7-of-17 shooting, 4-of-6 in the third, to put L.A. up 61-60. In other news, we were up to three Jay-Z/Beyonce songs at that point (I set the over/under at 4).
0:53.3 Gasol, with just nine points and four rebounds to that point, did show why he’s among the league’s best passing big men by spotting a cutting Brown for an easy layup to put LA up 72-71. Kidd, however, hit his fourth three-pointer of the game at the buzzer to give the Mavs a two-point cushion heading into the deciding quarter.
8:53 Bynum, who hadn’t scored since the first quarter, got a baseline hook to go that brought L.A. within two points. The 80-78 score wasn’t indicative of the quarter’s early flow, however, as the Lakers had turned the ball over three times in the first two minutes and change, but watched the Mavs fail to convert the TO’s into points.
5:52 How much did the Mavs want to win this game? Dirk thrust his two hands up into the air after an and-1 put Dallas up 87-82 with nearly half the fourth quarter left, to be met by Terry’s two-handed fist pound on his chest. In related news, Terry had looked like someone who drank about five Red Bulls before the game, putting up nearly as many fist-bumps and crowd-prompts-for-cheering as points (24).
0:57.0 With L.A. down nine with 2:20 to go after a Terry layup, Odom exploded for six points in a minute, thanks to an and-1 layup and a corner three, before Bryant’s driving layup cut the lead to 97-94. Could the Lakers pull off two straight last minute comebacks?…
…0:25.9 No. Bryant, just a night after nailing two threes in the last minute, actually missed a tying attempt after a big defensive stop from L.A. That forced the Lakers to foul, and Terry made both free throws to get to 30 points. Bryant and Dirk exchanged free throws in the final seconds, and the game was over, Dallas winning 101-96. L.A. seemed to run out of gas to an extent, as witnessed by the turnovers and some missed chances to clear rebounds. Bryant in particular looked a bit tired, playing big minutes for the second straight night after 18 days off.
L.A. will try to get back in the win column on Friday against Philadelphia at home, but until then, your numbers:
61 Combined points for Dirk Nowitzki (31) and Jason Terry (30). Lamar Odom’s 21 led the Lakers.
17 Turnovers for the Lakers, including six in the fourth quarter, which keyed the Mavericks’ final push.
8 Offensive rebounds for Dallas in the first half, helping the Mavs out-rebound L.A. by 10 (26-16).
6 Lakers in double figures, led by Odom (21), Bryant (20), Artest (13), Fisher (12), Gasol (11) and Bynum (10).
4 Three-pointers made by both Terry and Jason Kidd, on 17 total attempts. Kidd added 13 assists and seven rebounds for the Mavs.