Los Angeles Lakers 100, Dallas Mavericks 95

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 14, 2010 under Recaps | 8 Comments to Read

Photo by Danny Bollinger/NBAE via Getty Images.

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOr
Dallas88.0108.047.625.026.08.0
Los Angeles113.650.627.526.212.5

They’re certainly not the protagonists.
-Robert Thompson

Each Maverick game this season has been but another installment in the team’s plotline. There are ups and downs, triumphs and failures, and hopefully, a terrific climax following the rising action late in the playoffs.

But tonight didn’t feel like a Maverick game. Dallas was merely the backdrop of the latest Laker adventure, with the Mavs thrown out of the spotlight in favor of the night’s true protagonists. They showed resolve. They showed savvy. They fought nobly in the face of adversity, displayed teamwork and fellowship, and prevailed. The Mavs were simply the extras in the background while the celebration ensued, a footnote in the epic being written to log the exploits of the reigning champs.

From the very beginning, it seemed as if Dallas was fighting an uphill battle. The Lakers found plenty of early success by jumping on the back of Andrew Bynum (22 points, 8-11 FG, 11 rebounds). Erick Dampier’s (five points, four rebounds, two turnovers) return was supposed to provide a defensive counter to Bynum’s inside presence, but to no avail. Damp couldn’t slow down Bynum, much less stop him, and the interior D went from bad to worse when Dampier picked up two early fouls. Drew Gooden (eight points, five rebounds) is an able big against second units and small lineups, but against a gifted conventional center like Bynum, he could offer little in the way of resistance. The center rotation couldn’t even balance their poor defense with a bit of offense, leaving the rest of the Mavs to counter Bynum’s efficient night.

The defensive problems hardly stopped there. Ron Artest (16 points, 5-5 FG, 11 rebounds) was a bull inside, exploiting Josh Howard in the post with decisive moves and superior size. But perhaps the biggest slap of all came with the Mavs inability to get stops against the Lakers’ reserves; how is that a team of starters for a would-be contender fails to gain ground against a lineup of Jordan Farmar, Shannon Brown, Luke Walton, Josh Powell, and Andrew Bynum? That’s one starter (albeit on this night, a terribly effective one) with two rotation players and two deep reserves, and yet stops were a rarity and easy buckets were nowhere to be found. That is not the kind of team that the Mavs are supposed to struggle against, and though the Lakers’ margin of victory is relatively small, that stretch is surely representative of a larger deficit. The Mavs are struggling.

Kobe Bryant (10 points, two rebounds, one assist) was a virtual non-factor in the first half, as back spasms rendered him an observer on the court. The ball stayed out of his hands, and the Mavs failed to attack him when in the half-court offense. Bryant was matched up Marion, and while Shawn does not have an expansive offensive repertoire, would posting up Bryant be too much to ask? It’s hard for players with hurt backs to guard mobile opponents, but it’s also difficult for them to establish a base, bump, and contest down low. That should have been the Mavs’ primary directive early in the game, but Marion was hardly a factor in Dallas’ first quarter offense.

By the second half, Kobe seemed to be more comfortable. Maybe it was the considerable rest (he didn’t play at all in the second quarter, giving him thirteen minutes of rest in addition to halftime) afforded him by the Laker bench, or perhaps a change in approach by L.A.’s training staff. Or perhaps a recovery of some supernatural nature, a divine right given to the heroes of our story so that they may rise above. Bryant didn’t do much of the heavy lifting, but he managed to suck the air out of American Airlines Center with a go-ahead jumper with 29 seconds remaining. Dirk had just hit the biggest shot of the night to tie the game 95-all, but we should have known that the Mavs were simply setting the stage for their opponents’ victory. Josh Howard later had a chance to send the game to overtime on an open three-pointer, but leather hit nothing but rim. And instead of thinking that the Mavs fell short, all I could think was that the Lakers held on. From the opening tip on, this was their game. It was their story, and they played like it.

Closing thoughts:

  • Dirk Nowitzki (30 points, 11-22 FG, 16 rebounds, two assists) and Jason Kidd (11 points, 3-8 3FG, seven rebounds, 11 assists) were sensational. But Kidd’s timely threes and Dirk’s heroics couldn’t overcome the Mavs’ defensive shortcomings. It was one of those nights where Dirk reminds you of just how fantastic of a player he is, and fittingly so, because Nowitzki notched his 20,000th career point. He’s 38th on the all-time scoring list, and while it’s easy to say that the Dallas Mavericks have never seen another player or scorer like him, I’d venture as far as to say that the NBA hasn’t, either. Dirk is a truly unique talent, a revolutionary, a franchise savior, and one of the best to ever play the game.
  • Jason Terry (seven points, 2-12 FG, three assists) didn’t offer much support, and the offense stalled because of it. Terry is so crucial to the offensive game plan, and when he’s not providing a scoring punch from the bench (especially on a night where Josh Howard moved into the starting lineup), he doesn’t offer much at all. That’s painful considering just how close the Mavs were to a victory, and when considering that the Lakers’ bench outscored the Mavs’ bench by ten points (31-21).
  • Lamar Odom did exactly what the situation called for – he drove to the basket (nine attempts at the rim), set up his teammates (four assists) and hit his open jumpshots (four of five from 16-23 feet). With Kobe stepping into a minor offensive role, somebody needed to use up shots. To Lamar’s credit, he certainly wasn’t passive, and although his 9-20 shooting and three turnovers aren’t terrific in regard to efficiency, it was exactly what the Lakers needed on this night.
  • Early in the game, the Mavs made the decision to put Josh Howard on Ron Artest and Shawn Marion on Kobe Bryant. I don’t meant to beat a dead horse here, but the way that Artest was bullying Josh inside made me wonder if Marion couldn’t do a little better job of standing his ground. Shawn is bigger than Josh and a more adept defender in the post, and putting Josh on Kobe would create more transition situations where Kobe is forced to guard Josh. Even if you don’t buy into the idea of Marion being able to punish Kobe in the post, Howard could at least provide offensive pressure on an ailing Bryant.
  • Two crucial plays that Rick Carlisle highlighted in his press conference took place at the end of the second and third quarters. To close the second, Ron Artest had a look at a running three-pointer, but Dirk Nowitzki mistimed his jump and ended up fouling with .2 seconds on the clock. Ron sank all three free throws, and what could have been a one-point deficit at halftime was four. Then, to close the third, the Mavs gave up an uncontested three to Jordan Farmar, pushing a two-point deficit to five. Both were pretty glaring mental mistakes, worsened by the fact that the clock was working against the Lakers in those situations, and yet they still found ways to get points.
  • http://basketballforbeginners.blogspot.com BJ

    I did some arithmetic, and over the last couple weeks, the Mavs are allowing the bad guys 50% shooting and 46 points in the paint. For a team with title pretensions, those numbers are disgusting.

    And yeah, I did not enjoy the company of the Faker fans that crawled out from under the sidewalk tonight.

  • Phil

    Hey Rob, maybe you could do a sort of analysis on why our home court record at 12-7 is so much worse this season compared to the last four years (36-5 in 2003-04 and 2006-07 and 34-7 in both 2005-06 and 2007-08). This troubles me way more than one loss to the Lakers…

  • Kirk Henderson

    … Josh Howard and his mental lapses in the 4th quarter are becoming exhausting. Not just this season, he hasn’t played enough for me to really be sick of him yet.

    But those two turnovers in the last 5 minutes were just killer. Maybe the long pass to him wasn’t his fault, but I suspect it was, again, a mental lapse on his part. Getting stripped by a crippled Kobe was ridiculous as well. And why did he think that he was the guy who shoot that last three?

    I know he didn’t lose the game for us, but I’m exhausted after watching 3-4 years of mental lapses either losing games for us late or getting covered up by Dirks brilliance.

  • Brayden

    LA really helped expose one of our major defensive weaknesses last night. While we may have improved in help side defense and perimeter rotations (although we haven’t been showing it recently), our team seems to have trouble putting a body on the guys who want to bang their way close to the basket.

    Whether in the post or in midrange, we seem to have enough players on the floor that will not step in and take the charge or get down in defensive stance to hold some ground while taking hits to the chest.

    I’ll start with the positives. Dampier may have not slowed Bynum down tonight, but he still took a few to his chest and provided a barrier between Bynum and the hoop. He does this very well against Duncan, and other centers as well. Drew Gooden, while no way strong or big enough to do so on Bynum, is not afraid to put his body in harm’s way and slow the advancing player with his chest. Kidd is never afraid to body up on an opposing player, and though he is often too slow to say in front of others, he is still able to use his body to slow guys down on their approach to the basket. Even Barea, who is essentially always the smallest player on the court, does his best to stay in front of his man and take the hit, often resulting in a charge rather than just slowing the oppositions advances.

    And now for the egregious perpetrators. Josh Howard got dominated, and usually does. Artest is stronger than Howard and I don’t expect Howard to win that down low battle, but it often seemed as if he was just back peddling to avoid much in the way of strong contact to the chest and just trying to use his long arms as a decoy. That works on the perimeter, but not within 8 feet of the basket. While I love the man, Dirk is also quite guilty of this. We have all seen him avoid taking a large hit to the chest only to step to the side and swipe at the ball. His swipes have improved, his help side D has improved, he gets some blocks these days, but he still won’t take many direct defensive hits, especially in the post. And Terry, well, what is there to say. Never uses his body, always swiping from behind or chasing the play, and I don’t believe I have ever seen him take a charge since he joined the team.

    With Dirk, Josh, and Jet getting so many crunch time minutes, as they should, we have some chinks in the defensive armor. I would argue that LA exploited this most obvious of chinks to the fullest last night. We wont always have the strongest guys or a team full of bangers on defense, but even taking one hit often slows the opposing player enough for some help D to recover and provide more challenge on the ball. Opposing players may still gain ground to the basket, but not as much and not as quickly as if we are back peddling or stepping out of the way and swiping at the ball. And we may force a few more turnovers by taking an occasional charge here and there. Seems to me it could make a world of difference in close games like last night.

  • Cynthia

    I don’t see how you get the idea that Damp provided ANY kind of barrier against Bynum last night. Andrew did ANYTHING he wanted last night against Damp. Anything. He only missed 3 shots and you think Damp was a positive? There were defensive mistakes all over the court last night by the good guys. Kobe getting a steal from J-Ho, Dirk fouling Artest who gets 3 fts., the Lakers unstoppable in the paint, the Jet being a no show…in every way possible, and Damp (when he was actually able to stay on the court) not doing one damn thing to stop or even counter Bynum. That game is one of if not the worst games Damp has played this season…no ifs ands or buts about it. I certainly do not put the blame solely on Dampier for this loss but theres no way he was any kind of a positive out there either.

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

      @Phil: I can take a crack, but the truth is, no one knows. The Mavs themselves are trying to figure this stuff out. But I may give it a try later today.

      @Kirk: Josh wasn’t perfect, but he was likely the most effective Maverick behind Dirk and Kidd. The turnover on the pass from Kidd was miscommunication on the part of both parties, and as for what he was thinking when he took that last three? I suspect it was something along the lines of “I’m wide open, the seconds are dwindling, and the game’s on the line.” While I would obviously prefer that Dirk, JET (although maybe not on a night like that), or Kidd take a shot like that, I would honestly be disappointed if Howard passed up that look. Seven seconds is plenty of time to draw up a set play, but to recover a broken one? There was no guarantee that the Mavs would get another open look (or even a look at all), and Howard made the right call.

      @Brayden: I agree with Cynthia, in that there is little to think of positively in the Mavs’ low post defense. They were trying, sure, but look completely outmatched against Bynum. But Damp gets a positive for his work against Bynum (who, by all indications, he should be able to at least contain), while Josh was a detriment because he couldn’t play inside with the considerably stronger Artest? I completely understand why you think Josh’s interior D wasn’t deserving of praise, I just don’t understand why Damp’s was any better.

  • Brayden

    Not saying Dampier did much of anything on Bynum last night, but my comments were more on defensive technique, toughness, and willingness to take a hit by bodying up their man over the course of the season. Last night merely reminded me of all the Mavs I’ve watched this season and provided a contrast between defensive approaches for the players i mentioned. Execution may vary, and the results of effort may vary, but that doesn’t change my point that, overall through the course of a season, a more physical and technically sound approach to defense down low and in the lane that includes positioning oneself and his chest in front of the oncoming player to provide resistance will provide much defensive benefit over the longhaul. The guys I mentioned as positives may have had no impact last night, but certainly have plenty of other times this season when playing as I describe, even if they have many other defensive shortcomings (which they all most certainly do). I just think this is a subtle adjustment that Josh, Jet, and Dirk could make that would be easy and improve the team defense substantially going forward.

  • Joe

    Is this the loss that finally gets management to make a real trade? I hope so. I really do.