First Impressions: Lakers 109, Mavs 93

Sometimes in Mavs poker, they win without their best hand. But as the Lakers proved Wednesday in their 109-93 win, it's hard to beat a full house in the form of Kobe, Gasol, Bynum and Sessions, who combined to shoot 35-of-47. That's an incredible 74.5 percentage and it's where we lay out all our cards in First Impressions:

After outdueling the Spurs and Nuggets with less than a full deck, the Dallas Mavericks came up short against the Lakers, falling 109-93 on Wednesday at the American Airlines Center. Without two starters, Marion and Haywood (three if you count Delonte West), Dallas simply did not have enough personnel to counter the Lakers.
From the Dallas side, it didn't help that Shawn Marion was in street clothes (not sure what street he bought 'em on, but they were HIS street clothes) due to a sore knee. He is Dallas' Kobe Stopper and his absence allowed Bryant to do more in this game than he had in the two previous meetings between the teams combined.

And from the LA side? It doesn't help that the Lakers recently caught a Jack on the river with the trade deadline deal for Ramon Sessions.

"Sessions made the game easy for everybody,'' said Lakers coach Mike Brown of Sessions 17-point, 9-assist and 5-rebound output. "He had a very good all-around game. You can see how his speed can help us, and his ability to play pick-and-roll and turn the corner and get in the teeth of the defense, and set guys up for easy… shots."

Sessions production showed just how efficient the Lakers offense can be with a much-needed injection of speed and quickness at the point guard position.

Efficiency was the name of the game for LA as they received 83 points from Sessions, Bryant, Bynum and Gasol. Bryant would lead the game with 30 points, trailed by Gasol's 27 and nine rebounds.

Without two of their best defenders, Dallas simply had too many defensive breakdowns as the Mavericks surrendered 100 points to an opponent for just the ninth time this season.

And yeah, 'Trix would've helped.

"We miss him a lot,'' Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "He had not been on the court for five or six days. In looking at his situation, how fair is it to just throw him out there against Kobe Bryant?''

Of course, it wasn't exactly fair to throw Jason Kidd out there against Kobe, either ...

Dirk Nowitzki returned to earth a bit as he led the Mavs with 26 points but needed 24 shots to get there -- and hitting only 10. He would also pull down 10 rebounds to complete the double-double, his second straight and eighth of the season. Yet The UberMan never looked settled in this one, alternately hastening and hesitant with his shoot.

Jason Terry hit eight of 14 shots, including three of six from three-point land for an efficient 23 points, doing his part at least on the offensive end. However, Nowitzki and Terry were a combined minus-48 while on the court and no other Maverick playing significant minutes registered a positive plus/minus. Also, no other Dallas player scored in double figures.
Of the lack of offensive balance, Carlisle said, "We proved the last two games (wins over Denver and San Antonio) we're very capable of having balance and playing a great all-around game of basketball – we just didn't do it tonight."

Dallas simply couldn't manage the offensive cohesion that buoyed their now-snapped four-game winning streak. Though they would commit a season-low seven turnovers, Dallas was held below 100 points for the first time in the last five games.

The Lakers seemed to have a ready counter for every Dallas punch after the first quarter. After a tight first frame, LA blew the game open with a 23-10 run in the 2nd quarter and would never trail again, leading by as much as 19 while shooting 58% for the game.

Dallas surely missed Marion, as Kobe would uncork multiple highlight-reel plays in this one. Ironically, Haywood's absence was less of an impact as Bynum was held to nine points and seven rebounds thanks to some heady play from fill-in starter Mahinmi. "The Ianimal'' finished with eight points and seven rebounds, and importantly, only two fouls, and was able to stay on the court without getting into foul trouble. However, Dallas was hammered on the boards, outrebounded 46-29, a season-low. However, Dallas managed to outscore LA 36-28 in the paint.

The three-pointer was also a subplot in this one. After using timely daggers from the arc to sweep the Lakers last spring in the postseason, Dallas could only muster 8% from downtown in the first half tonight. The Mavericks would finish 8-26 for 31% while LA would hit half of their three-point attempts (9-18).

While a number of Mavs had ups and downs here (Roddy B being one of many), worthy of special note is the uninspired work of Lamar Odom. His single point would come at the line as he missed all three of his field-goal attempts to go along with one rebound, one assist, one steal and one turnover with two fouls.
"Of course I had a lot of fun with those guys,'' said the ex-Laker Lamar, "but I'm here now and I have to focus on winning games and finding out how to fit my game to help this team down the stretch.''

At some point thought, it would be nice to see his focus shift to the urgency of the present. Instead, after 48 games, and only 18 remaining, one begins to wonder if we will ever see that version of Odom, as his potential is a must in games in which Marion is unavailable and remains the wild card this season going forward.

And if that potential is to be untapped, it would be nice if Lamar Odom would at least try to bluff it.

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