The Difference: Los Angeles Lakers 73, Dallas Mavericks 70

Posted by Rob Mahoney on January 17, 2012 under Recaps | Read the First Comment

Screen shot 2012-01-17 at 1.10.00 AM

Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot ChartGameFlow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FT/FGORB%TOR
Los Angeles81.138.825.013.612.2

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • Let’s get one thing straight: Derek Fisher’s game-winning three-pointer was a stroke of mercy. A competitive game is not necessarily a good one, and though the Mavs put themselves in a position to sneak a win on a tough night on the road, Fisher’s spot-up three saved us all from (at least) five more minutes of basketball misery. I’m sure Dallas would love to have a mulligan on a few of their more pitiful possessions, but perhaps a game of this ilk is better left dead. The defensive activity displayed by both teams was excellent, but energetic D against unstable O makes for a horrid mess. Nothing about either team’s total performance should be glorified; there’s simply too much for both the Mavs and the Lakers to figure out about the workings of their respective offenses, and too much muddled by terrible play to really determine anything meaningful and specific about either team’s defense. Poor shooting is the great equalizer, and though one could certainly build a case in support of the defensive efforts of either team, I have a hard time seeing this outing as anything other than Dallas and Los Angeles attempting to out-miss one another. I guess the Mavs won.

  • Individual defensive credit does have its place, though, and Shawn Marion and Pau Gasol both deserve ample praise for their work on opposing superstars. Marion was given the impossible assignment of defending Kobe Bryant in the midst of one of his crusades, and yet he limited Bryant to 14 points on 22 shots with four turnovers. Plenty of other Mavericks factored into that shoddy statistical line, but Marion was the wall denying Bryant from quality attempts, whether by getting an outstretched hand in his face or by controlling the ways in which Bryant got his touches in the first place. Gasol played some pretty questionable defense against Dirk Nowitzki in the first half, but somehow managed to keep a rooted base on all of Dirk’s second-half shot fakes. Considering how potent a shooter Nowitzki is (or, in light of recent struggles, can be), that’s pretty outstanding. Gasol shuffled, played the spins, dodged the fakes, used his length, walled the paint, and made the isolation offense that earned the Mavericks a championship last season into a losing affair. No team in last year’s postseason came even close to matching what Gasol did on Monday night, and though Nowitzki didn’t quite approximate his playoff self, that kind of singular defensive impact is worth noting — and appreciating.
  • Lamar Odom saw the floor for nearly three minutes late in the fourth quarter, as Rick Carlisle opted for a smaller lineup of Odom, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Nowitzki, and Marion against the Lakers’ usual starters. It was an interesting idea, but Carlisle made the right call with a quick correction just a few minutes later. Difficult though it would theoretically be for Andrew Bynum to defend Odom in such a positional alignment, the Mavs voided their mismatch potential by characteristically putting the ball in the hands of their best player. Nowitzki is going to control a good chunk of the Mavs’ late-game offense, and though shots still funnel through players like Terry and Kidd by way of kick-out passes and well-executed pick-and-rolls, much of Dallas’ movement at such a late hour is designed to create optimal spacing for Dirk to go to work. The Mavs did that very thing in their attempts to topple the Lakers on Monday, all while Odom — that handy addition, floor-spacer, and versatile weapon — sat in waiting on the weak side. Meanwhile, once the Lakers identified the matchup, Bynum backed Odom down with ease, and pivoted his way into an easy hook. Odom will clearly have his opportunities as a member of Dallas’ closing lineups, but until Carlisle determines the optimal ways to get him involved offensively, I’m not seeing how the iso-heavy, late-game Mavs benefit from having Odom on the court rather than, say, Ian Mahinmi.