Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Tuesday night home contest against Dallas, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Blake, Meeks, Bryant, Gasol and Howard
Mavs: M. James, O.J. Mayo, S. Marion, D. Nowitzki, C. Kaman
5:26 LAL were off to a good start on the night they’d retire Shaquille O’Neal’s jersey into the rafters, as their current center, Dwight Howard, scored seven points to help create a 14-10 lead. Helping find him was Pau Gasol, who had three assists a game after he went for 10 dimes at Sacramento, showing that Spanish skill from the top of the floor.
0:00 L.A. controlled the first quarter with good energy on both ends, but found itself up by only three points when rookie Jae Crowder hit a buzzer-beating three off glass at the buzzer, capping a 5-0 run in the final two minutes. Nonetheless, the Lakers had come out as they’d needed to in a critical game in the push for the No. 8 seed.
5:00 Behind a pair of three-pointers and defensive-three-second technical free throws from Jodie Meeks, plus the all-around play of Earl Clark off the pine (nine points, seven boards, two blocks in 12 minutes), L.A. got its lead back to eight points at 41-33. Bryant had yet to sit, this a game after he played all but 23 seconds in the win at Sacramento.
0:00 A terrific close to the half for the home team was led by Bryant, who reached 15 points with seven dimes and five minutes without resting for a second. Howard helped inside, via 13 points, six boards and a swat, while Clark kept rolling before settling on 12 points with eight boards in 17 key bench minutes (making up for Antawn Jamison’s 0 for 4 FG’s without a board). As such, the Lakers pushed their lead to 15 at 55-40, shooting 53 percent and holding the visitors to 44 percent (Dirk Nowitzki was just 2 for 5, the Clark/Gasol tandem doing the job).
3:05 An 11-0 run came suddenly from the Mavericks, L.A. missing nine straight shots and struggling to move the ball on offense, cutting what had been a 16-point lead to just five at at 63-58.
0:00 At a critical time, a late Lakers rally – inspired by Earl Clark – put ‘em back up 11 points heading into the fourth quarter, reaching 17 points with his 11 rebounds for the first time since an early February game at Charlotte. At halftime, assistant coach Dan D’Antoni told me he thought Clark may have hit a wall in March, having never played this many minutes in his career. He certainly broke out of his funk on this night.
10:29 L.A.’s stalled offense midway through that third quarter picked up once Gasol returned, and he kept it up early in the third, with a post move and then two free throws to put the Lakers up 76-63. Bryant, meanwhile, had still yet to sit out.
0:00 Fittingly, Kobe finished the game with a triple-double (23 points, 11 boards and 11 assists), leading the Lakers to a strong close of the game and an emphatic 101-81 win in a game they absolutely had to have. Kobe sat only the final 56 seconds of this one. With the victory, they pull even with Utah for the eighth seed, and go 2.5 games up on Dallas, plus gaining the tiebreaker in the process. Howard added 24 points and 12 boards, while Earl Clark had five key blocks along with his 17 points and 12 boards. Up next is Memphis on Sunday: we’ll see you there.