Los Angeles Lakers 107, Dallas Mavericks 100

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 16, 2009 under Recaps | 13 Comments to Read

Photo by AP Photo/Hector Mata.

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“Better late than never…right guys?”
-Roberticus Mahoney

The thing about establishing a goal and a corresponding brightline is that you need to be prepared to fall short of it.  Obviously that’s not the preferred result, but even the most worthy competitors need to eventually brace themselves for the possibility of failure.

That may be what stings most about Sunday’s loss in Los Angeles.  The Mavs no doubt realized that this was the toughest game on their four-game road trip, and if there was a spot to drop a loss, this would be it.  Yet the Mavs hung around, enduring an inspired first half performance from Pau Gasol (or a lackluster performance from the Mavs’ defense, take your pick), and took the lead at the 8:49 mark in the 4th quarter.

The Mavs, those with flaws much deeper than their bench, overcame a 15 point deficit and had extended a lead of as much as 5 points.  This could have been the season’s defining moment, a point at which everything the team hopes to accomplish and the often troublesome product they have fielded thus far come to a sharp divergence.  This was a team on the brink of creating something beautiful on a Sunday afternoon on national television.  But, as you know now, it wasn’t to be.

With a little help from his friends, Antoine Wright actually smothered Kobe into an 0-4 first quarter.  It was only fitting that Kobe put similar shackles on the hot-handed Jason Terry to effectively end the Mavs’ run in the fourth, shift the momentum considerably as the Mavs struggled to dribble the ball cleanly, much less score.

Still, one has to ask why exactly Jason Kidd is taking the biggest shots of the game, and why exactly our star point guard is committing silly ball-handling errors and careless turnovers on overambitious passes.  The great points of the league can see the angles no one else can see, and make the passes no one else can make; part of that comes from pure ability, and the other part comes from the will to complete those types of passes.  Kidd showed every bit of that will, but maybe he was a little too willing to attempt to thread the needle through three defenders on the break when a lob or kick-out would have done just fine.

The defense continues to be the problem.  In the first half, the Mavs were getting good looks, but just failed to capitalize.  Meanwhile on the other end, Pau Gasol was having his way, three point shooters were left wide open, and Kobe Bryant eventually remembered that he is, in fact, Kobe Bryant.  The Mavs again show a complete inability to defend any player on the floor that could be described as ‘quick,’ and the man defense was sliced and diced on the way to a 66-point first half for L.A..  But there is a bright spot defensively: the zone continues to baffle opponents.  It’s effectiveness would no doubt dwindle in a playoff series, in which coaching staffs (staves) can tech and teach specifically to counter it.  In the regular season, on the other hand, it’s managed to slow down two of the league’s most potent offenses while only surrendering one key weakness against the Lakers: the lack of rebounding in the clutch.  Lamar Odom turned excellent defensive possessions for the Mavs into entirely too many opportunities for the Lakers.  Of course when the Mavs went away from the zone to secure more rebounds, the Lakers just beat them outright.  Fun.

It’s also definitely worth noting that the zone is a vicegrip for opposing second units.  The Mavs bench isn’t particularly skilled defensively, but what they lack in talent and fundamentals on that end they make up for in hustle.  Barea, Singleton, and Bass, coupled with say Antoine Wright and Jason Terry, can smother opponents’ bench lineups that lack the sort of penetrating playmaker needed to make smart passes against the zone.  We saw this in full effect against the Lakers sans Kobe, and equally so with the Blazers sans a healthy Brandon Roy.

Dirk played very poorly by his standards.  His shot was off the entire night, and this may be the first game of the season where the Mavs came back to make things interesting in spite of him.  Credit that to Jason Terry, who made an absolutely batty seven threes.  Ultimately, it wasn’t enough, and this one stings more than a game that just slipped through our fingers.

  • sam

    Why is Kidd taking the big shots? How many times has Kidd made a big three or a big play in the Mavs 40 wins? Have you not seen that? Or your just one of the “Devin Harris is having an All-Star year, blah blah blah and should not have been traded for an aging point guard” group? Well, that aging point guard has won a lot of games for the Mavs. And again, if you still don’t get it. Harris would not be an All-Star with Dallas. And oh, where are the Nets right now?… My point exactly!

    • http://www.thetwomangame.com Rob Mahoney

      Kidd’s big plays have been spot-up threes and steals. I’m comfortable with him doing either one of those things. But when he’s losing his dribble bringing the ball up the court and taking off-balance mid-range jumpers with the game on the line, I’m gonna have to say my piece.

      Not every criticism of Jason Kidd has something to do with Devin Harris.

  • Charles

    With Kidd you have to accept that there will be turnovers sometimes, and he’s been surprisingly good at keeping that in check this season. I think more credit goes to the Lakers defense than anything else.

    The Lakers defense won the game, Jason Kidd shouldn’t take midrange jumpers, but Dirk wasn’t getting it going and JET was being smothered by Kobe. Would’ve been great if we had that other option…calling JHo.

  • wacc_attack

    Kidd has won or kept us in numerous games this season, but the criticism he received for this game was fully warranted. He is not a viable scoring option, accept it. Like was said, yes he has knocked down a dagger 3 for us on a few occassions. But how many of those were contested, hand in the face, falling away 3s? I dare you to find more than one, as even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while and I’m sure there is one out there somewhere. That shot, the air tight defense/game on the line shot, can right now go only to two men on this basketball team – JET or Dirk. Kidd’s job as an NBA veteran and unarguably one of the greatest PGs to ever play the game is to create a play to get them the ball with at least a milisecond of time to catch and shoot. Clearly, he was not able to do that. Kobe’s “body glove” defense aside, Trevor Ariza’s hustle aside, there should be no reason why we squander a 6 pt lead while missing 8 of 9 shots on bad looks. We settled for shots, had horrible turnovers; and, since Kidd runs this offense, the blame is partly on him. You want the credit? Get ready to take the blame when going gets tough.

    Assuming any and all criticism of Kidd is synonymous with an outcry for Devin Harris to please come back is ludicrous. Yes, Dirk was passive and was not looking to shoot the ball as much as he should have. Yes, Kobe was doing his best impression of a Bruce Bowen/Shane Battier uber-defender on speed. But if you have 10,000 assists and are regarded as a 1st ballot HoFer, you cant make silly thread-the-needle turnovers, or get the ball stolen from you by a second year (or whatever, screw Ariza) player when your team is down by 1 with 4 min left.

  • Charles

    Let’s be fair now, how many times have we put Kidd’s name next to the words “careless turnover” this season? Not much. The guy has been much more careful with the ball than he has been in years past.

  • Charles

    Rockets forward Carl Landry shot in drive by…the franchise is cursed…

    I thought it was a mathematical impossibility for them to flame out in the first round again, now I don’t no…

    The basketball gods are punishing them for all that statistical mumbo jumbo they practice.

    • http://www.thetwomangame.com Rob Mahoney

      Pretty terrible news; thoughts go out to Landry and his family.

      Losing Landry hurts their chances quite a bit, and likely means that the Rox are going to be playing Hayes substantially more. Which is…interesting, to say the least. I won’t discount what that team has been able to accomplish in spite of significant injuries by counting them out just yet, but their road just got significantly bumpier.

  • wacc_attack

    Charles

    very true. but what is Dirk most criticized for? games 3-6 of the Miami series, and game 6 of the GS series. 5 games during an outstanding 11 year career. thats how it works.

  • Charles

    I think one game with a few miscues against a suffocating Lakers defense is excusable. Frankly, If Dirk showed up JET and Jkidd wouldn’t have had such a hard time with execution.

    JKidd didn’t take those shots because he wanted to, JET tried to run the two man game with Dirk in the fourth but he was forced out of the play over and over again by an overzealous Kobe.

    • http://www.thetwomangame.com Rob Mahoney

      I don’t disagree. Kidd knows better than to think that he is the first, second, or even third offensive option. It was just unfortunate that he needed to take those shots. Personally, I would’ve even preferred a cold Dirk launching ze jumpers. You never know when Dirk will suddenly find his stroke and win you a game (Philly comes to mind).

      But man, was Kobe brilliant defensively during that final stretch or what?

  • wacc_attack

    definitively. not taking anytihng away from Kobe, broskie was money down the stretch. but to echo Rob’s thoughts, I’d much rather lose by seeing Dirk miss contested and off-balance shots than see Kidd do the same. yes Dirk was covered and yes so was JET, but it’s not like JKidd was launching bricks while wide open. Any shot would be a contested one, that’s my beef with Kidd guys. If you realize the shot wont come easy, get it in the hands of a man who gets paid to score.

  • Kevin

    Kidd isn’t an offensive half court player, he stands in the corner and shoots open 3s. This would be like if the lakers were running Walton/Gasol instead of Kobe/Gasol down the stretch.
    If Kobe was shutting down Jet why not run Dirk iso at the top of the key and surround him with shooters. Somebody needs to show Rick Carlisle some 2004-2007 Mavs footage when we ran that play all the time and it made us a title contender.

    • http://www.thetwomangame.com Rob Mahoney

      We have shooters?!