All-Access: Inside The Mavs Ugly Loss At LA

To call this game 'ugly' would be to give a compliment it fell far short of earning. If your ugly cousin had an ugly cousin that used to make fun of another cousin for being repulsively ugly, that would be this. Or maybe we're just bitter about Lakers 73, Mavs 70. Or maybe we're bitter AND everybody's ugly. Your All-Access Pass helps you decide:

FOREWARD: Thanks to the almost nonexistent preseason and compressed regular season, there has been some ugly basketball played at times. To call this game "ugly" would be to give a compliment it fell far short of earning. If your ugly cousin had an ugly cousin that used to make fun of another cousin for being repulsively ugly, that would be this game.

I don't necessarily think it's a coincidence that our team and the Mavericks have played the most games in the league so far to start the season and we're two of the most experienced teams," said Derek Fisher. "To have your 14th and 15th game in 20 or 21 games, you probably can't be too surprised that it was a little bit sloppy and a little bit ugly."

The man makes the game-winning shot and issues the game-summarizing quote. Wonderful.

Dallas held the Lakers to seven points in the third quarter, but seemed to wear down as particularly poor late offense led to easy points, allowing the Lakers to score 27 points in the final period and squeak by with a 73-70 win on a Derek Fisher 3-pointer with 3.1 seconds to play.
Vince Carter would get a fair look for Dallas' final attempt … and then have to be helped off the court after grabbing at his left foot with what the Mavs are currently calling a "sprained foot" (x-rays were negative) making the ugly only so much more so.

THE LEAD: Returning to a world left behind from an unfamiliar perch within the visitor's locker room, invading the realm where so many memories were formed; after his sudden, emotional departure Lamar Odom made his first appearance playing against the Lakers since Feb 10, 2004.

Have you ever been back to the house where you grew up, where memory whispers from every corner as so many ghosts still alive in you? That porch where you violently coughed out the first inhalation of a cigarette you lifted from your father's pack. Where your first spent your first Christmas, or made your first friends. Where you snuck your first kiss, maybe more if you were lucky. Where you were forced to eat a ketchup sandwich, the aftermath of countless warnings not to pour and then throw away so much at a time (What? Was that just me?).

You're in the place that shaped what you've become. You're home. Only now, you're a visitor. You're an alien in a world you know every inch of … but are no longer truly a part of, even as it remains a part of you.

If you've experienced this, you likely have a glimpse into how Odom must have felt. Now, pretend that it's only been a month or so and that house forced you out in an act that burst from nowhere in your mind.

The game began well enough. The crowd gave Odom an appreciative standing ovation as he entered the game ...

... And he took the court with an apparent spring in his step scoring seven points on 3-of-4 shooting, including a three in the final seconds to put the Mavs up by that same margin for the first quarter. Unfortunately, he slowed noticeably from that point on, finishing with 10 points (hitting only one of the eight shots he took in the final three periods) and four rebounds.

It's impossible to deny the very real possibility of an emotionally, and then physically, drained Odom by the end of this contest. He's winking at Kobe and getting standing ovations from Kupchak and hugging Penny Marshall ... Now, we'll just have to have some amount of healing took place and he can quickly move on and become the player the Mavs so desperately need him to be.

He called the experience "surreal.'' We are interested in having that move quickly to "real.'' Because "real'' would be more helpful to the basketball team that employs Lamar Odom.
FINAL PLAY D: There was nothing wrong with the alignment or the decision-making. Dallas falls to 8-6 but not because anybody goofed on that Fisher 3.

Bryant had been on a monumental tear. Coming into Monday, he hasn't scored less than 40 points in four straight outings. And for the month of January, he was averaging 35.6 points a game on 47-percent shooting.

You've got to start with covering him. Shawn Marion had primary responsibility, good enough that Mavs owner Mark Cuban tweets, "Tough loss ... Will someone tell me why (Marion) isn't a perennial All-NBA Defensive first team? He doesn't get the respect he's earned.''

Marion was part of a strategy to force Kobe to put it on the floor. Whether it's his sore wrist or some other ailment, Bryant proved to be a sloppy ball-handler.

But The Drama Queen gets credit for one smartly unselfish movement of the ball.

On the Lakers' final offensive play, with nine seconds left, a Dallas double-team of Bryant (Shawn Marion getting help from Jason Terry) forced the ball from his hand and prevented him from finding an interior receiver. That's when he dropped off the ball for Fisher, who up until his game-winner had been 2-of-21 from the arc this season.

The double-team was right. The defensive rotation of Dirk Nowitzki onto the shooter was right. In a game in which somebody was eventually going to make a shot – maybe -- LA made one big shot.

No blame there. A guy who'd made four out of his previous 21 treys, on a team that hadn't made one all night ... made one.

A MICROCOSM: If you're looking for a single example to sum up the offensive effort of the Mavs as a team, you need look no further than their floor general. Jason Kidd attempted eight 3-point shots … missing them all.
Before Monday night, Kidd has played 1,276 games and matched this futility behind the arc only once, all the way back on Feb. 11, 2003 … where he also went 0-of-8.

The problem on this night: it was far from Kidd alone. Only two Dallas players hit at least 50 percent of their shot attempts (Delonte West, 3-of-6, and Ian Mahinmi 4-of-7). Even if you erase the 1-of-9 Kidd went overall, the Mavs still converted only 38 percent of their attempts.

On a positive note, Kidd did grab two steals to reach number 2,500 for his career. He is only the third player in NBA history to reach this number and now sits 14 behind Michael Jordan for second on the all-time list.

MASTERS OF THE OBVIOUS, INQUISITIVE OF THE NOT-SO: When looking over the boxscore you're sure to notice a fixture of the recent Mavs rotation was conspicuous in his absence. Roddy Beaubois never took the court.

If you decide to dig into this you quickly come to a hard-to-avoid conclusion: Carlisle does not view Roddy B as quite ready for prime-time matchups. Or, put another way, Roddy has some work to do to crack the constricted playoff rotation.

Regardless of your view on Roddy B, in this particular game the stance seems questionable … perhaps more so when you turn to the limited minutes of Delonte West.

The Lakers continue to lack athleticism, to suffer an obvious lack of quickness, especially on the perimeter. The two players on the Mavs active roster who seem most ready to capitalize on this weakness are West and Roddy. It's easy to point to the mental mistakes Roddy is prone to for reasoning behind his absence, but becomes more difficult to explain West's.

West played the first 6:26 of the opening quarter, scoring four points by making 2-of-3 shots, and then did not return to the court until the second half.

Perhaps this is nothing more than the curse of depth. If West plays, someone else has to sit. So, who do you keep on the bench? Do you sit the team's leader (Kidd), their second-best scorer (Terry), or a guy that's been instrumental to their recent success (Vince Carter)?

We'll freely admit Carlisle knows far more than us, but that doesn't mean we can't wonder. Heck, you just scored 70 points. You have to let us wonder.

THE NUMBERS GAME - WITH EXPANDED THOUGHTS: For the Dallas Mavericks and for the bad guys, too:

*Kobe's Usage Rate
Kobe is getting a lot of publicity lately for his recent hot streak of scoring at least 40 points per game over his last four coming into last night's game against the Mavs. However, this season, he's using an unprecedented amount of the ball to do so. Indeed, Kobe's usage rate, that is the number of Laker possessions that end with a Kobe shot, drawn foul or turnover. No player has ever finished a season with a rate so high (per Zach Lowe).

Holding true to form, Kobe finished with 14 points on 22 shots, a game-high 4 turnovers, and, interestingly only one free throw.

*Mavs Defensive Points in the Paint

This was a stat from a Premium piece from yesterday, but it bears repeating. The Mavericks are tied for FIRST in the league for points in the paint defense at 33.2 per game. That's amazing. The Lakers would finish with 36 points in the paint in this one, inflated by their 4th quarter production inside.

For all that was made about Chandler and how the loss of his defensive leadership would cripple the Mavs' chances of a repeat, the early results just aren't bearing this out. The Mavs's defense is just as good as last year, and in fact, it might be better (see below).

The Mavs would finish with 7 steals in this one, and by our count they had at least three of those in the paint. That's against one of the strongest interior teams in the league. Impressive stuff (evan as Byrum was a 17/15 guy). Apparently the Dallas defense isn't so toothless with all those offseason losses as we thought.

*Lamar Odom

LO, the biggest storyline coming into this one, did not disappoint in some ways. His body language was far better from the start of this one, he even cracked a smile or two. He would finish with 10 points, four rebounds and two assists. More importantly, his was by far the best touch from deep, as he finished 2-5 from there, accounting for half of the Mavs baskets from range.

His numbers were ugly in the end (he made just 1 of his final 8 shots) but so were everyone's. Importantly, he managed his emotions, and seemed to be lighter than previously. Perhaps he can use this one to turn the corner as he puts the LA demons behind him.

*Dirk can't buy a basket, but neither can anyone else
Highlighted by multiple air-balls, Dirk struggled with his shot on this one. In fact, he would miss his first shots before hitting his first field goal. His struggles were hardly unique as Jason Kidd would also start 0-6 and Kobe would miss his first five attempts. There was ugly shooting everywhere. The Mavs would finish shooting 28-80 (35%) and the Lakers ended up 29-76 (38.2%) Gasol was 3-11. The artist formerly known as Ron Artest (now Metta World Peace) shot 1-7 and Punk ‘Em Barnes finished 1-5.

*Mavs top 5-man units

In terms of minutes played, the West-Kidd-Marion-Nowitzki-Haywood lineup has played the most of any Mavs' combo this year. However, this is not the Mavs' most effective lineup. In terms of plus/minus that distinction belongs to the West-Carter-Marion-Nowitzki-Haywood lineup with an overall +32 rating.

However, down the stretch in this one it was the mostly-finishing lineup of Kidd-Jet-Marion-Odom-Dirk. The Mavs clearly needed offense, playing much of crunch time from behind. With points difficult to come by, such an offensive-minded lineup by Carlisle is understandable.

*Obligatory Vince Carter Praise

Don't look now, but the highest win percentage on the team belongs to Vince Carter, at 80%. In fact, the Mavs average 1.08 points per possession with him on the court, also highest on the team. On the other end, opponents average .92 points per possession with him on the court, the second lowest among Mavs on the roster. (Interestingly, Roddy is #1 in that category, but he wouldn't see the floor in this one). If you haven't picked up on the theme, Carter is also tops in plus/minus. He would finish last night with 6 points on 2-6 shooting with two steals and one block.

Here's hoping VC's sprained left foot, an injury sustained on that final 3 try, isn't too problematic.

*Mavs Three-Point Shooting

Mirroring the overall shooting ugliness, the Mavs only shot 4-26 (15.4%) from deep, far below their season average of 32.4%. Kidd was the big offender in this one, going 0-8 from downtown. However, Carter and Terry didn't help, going 1-4 and 1-5, respectively.

*Bench Comparison

A known strength, the Mavs' bench scoring once again was strong in this one, outscoring the Lakers' bench 32-12. Both the Mavs and the Lakers would use only four bench players a piece, and the Mavericks' players clearly outplayed their counterparts in every category. The Mavs' bench outscored, outrebounded (18-12), out-stole (4-2), out assisted (9-3) and out-blocked (2-0) the Lakers'. However, it wasn't enough.
*Lakers Rebounding

The Lakers entered this contest as the #1 rebounding team in the Western Conference. However, the Mavericks would beat the Lakers at their own game in this one. Dallas would outrebound LA 49-44, including a 11-6 offensive rebounding advantage. LA is known to have superior length, but the Mavs are actually the tallest team in the NBA in terms of number of seven-footers on the roster.

Bynum was a beast, as expected, in this one, finishing with a game-high 15 rebounds to go along with 17 points.

*Mavs Steals

Dallas started the night as the #2 team in the league in steals per game at 10.7. The Lakers, by comparison, were second to last, at 5.7 per. This would not continue in this one as the Lakers would out-steal the Mavs 9-7.

Indeed, if not for the steals, Dallas would've had even less offense ...

*Lakers Out Fast-Break Mavs

Last season, the Mavs used a fast-paced running game and deadly three-point shooting to sweep the Lakers so famously in the postseason. Last night, however, it was the Lakers with a 13-7 fast break advantage. From downtown, the Lakers would miss the first nine of their attempts before Fisher made his dagger with 3.1 seconds remaining. The Mavs were better from deep, but not by much, needing 26 attempts to make just four threes.

*More Role Reversal

Aside from flipping roles in terms of rebounding, fast-break points, and timely-three point shooting, the Lakers also stole the Mavs' role as streak busters, snapping the Mavs five-game streak.

STARTING STRONG, BUT NOT FINISHING: Was it a sign of fatigue, of old age or merely a one-game coincidence? In the first quarter Dallas held the Lakers to 26.3-percent shooting (5-of-19), but followed that up by allowing them to hit 55 percent (11-of-20) in the second quarter.

The Mavs came out of the break to hold the Lakers to a new opponent season low for any quarter of seven points on 15.8-percent shooting (3-of-19), but followed that up by giving up 27 fourth-quarter points while hitting 55.6 percent (10-of-18) of their attempts.

For a more direct comparison, the Mavs held the Lakers to 21 percent shooting in the first and third quarters combined. In the second and fourth together, the Lakers hit 55.3 percent of their tries.


MAVSELLANEOUS: Kobe Bryant averaged 43 points on a 50.4 FG% in the past four games. Against the Mavs defense he scored 14 points on 7-of-22 shooting (31.8 FG%) … Dirk Nowitzki started the game by missing his first six shots. Kobe began by missing his first five. Dirk would make eight of his final 11 attempts. Kobe would make seven of his final 17 – but Derek Fisher hit the biggest shot of the game. As we learned in the playoffs last year, it's very frequently about those around the star … Matt Barnes reminded everyone in Dallas of why they really don't like him by turning to his "blueprint" to beating the Mavs and delivering a flagrant foul to Dirk. Of course, as noted above, this didn't slow The Uberman at all, and didn't give the Lakers an edge. So, once more, we see the blueprint is the sketching of idiocy … Exactly zero points were scored between the 6:58 and 2:18 marks of the third quarter, making 4:40 of game time without a single point by either team … Over the final 6:58 of the third quarter the total points were 4-1 in favor of the Mavs. ... We know that coming in, the Mavs spanned 10 games while allowing just of 84.2 points per. Having allowed 73 here, that number shrinks to 83.1.

THE FINAL WORD: As familiar as this brand of ugliness is becoming this season, it's hard to completely dismiss. Do we chalk it up as an inherent characteristic of this lockout season, brought on by the obvious constraints of pre- and mid-season preparation, brought to life by a severe lack of practice time? Or, do we pretend the Mavs are the only team playing such games?
Regardless of whether this is a league-wide epidemic, or an ailment confined to Dallas, it's hard to watch … and hard to draw optimism from. Yet, in the end, this is a loss. It counts no different than had the final been 103-100 or even 100-60. We must continue to search for growth, hope the Mavs can find it, and hope health can be retained to the greatest extent possible.

In that respect, the loss hurts … the issue with Carter's foot looms larger. Should Carter miss time, the Mavs must hope someone steps up in his absence just as West was able to do in Kidd's.

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