All-Access: Deep Inside Lakers Over Mavs
FOREWARD: Four wins in a row. The last two in which the Dallas Mavericks have appeared to rev their engines into another gear, amping up for the playoffs by outperforming a pair of playoff-caliber teams. Against the Lakers, the winning streak would come to an ugly end as short-handed Dallas fell by a final of 109-93.
UNFORTUNATE ALIGNMENT: Dallas played without Shawn Marion, a.k.a. Dallas's more than capable "Kobe Stopper." Gone were the long arms impeding Bryant's line of sight to the rim, the omnipresent distraction of Marion's relentless defensive pressure.
Jason Kidd did an admirable job of staying in front of Kobe, but lacked the length or leaping ability to play much into the consciousness of Bryant's release point. Once he lifted to find his shot, regardless of how strong Kidd's positioning was, how perfectly he cut off the angles, how well he stayed close; Kobe knew he'd find open space, a calm air to settle his aim and shoot unhindered.
"We love the fight in (Kidd),'' Dirk said. "But, if Kobe gets to his spot, he can just elevate."
Shawn Marion let us know before the game the team was keeping him out, though he hopes to return to action Friday when the Mavs travel to San Antonio, but he was helpless to slow Kobe here.
"We miss (Marion) a lot," Carlisle said. "He had not been on the court in five or six days. In looking at his situation, how fair is it to just throw him out there against Kobe Bryant? ... We care about Shawn. We know that it's one of those things, we throw him back out there with no court time, it could be just as dangerous. He's going to get some work in tomorrow, and then the plan is to have him ready for Friday."
Bryant finished with 30 points, 11-of-18 field goals, four assists, five rebounds, one steal and four turnovers (he still had to get in the air to escape Kidd's pressure).
Brendan Haywood and Delonte West also continue to sit ... though we did observe a few minutes of West working out before the game with his injured wring finger wrapped and taped to his middle digit, hitting shots, completing quick dribbling moves and looking like his return is quickly drawing closer.
"We can't bellyache about guys that are out with injuries,'' Carlisle said. "That's one of the realities of this season. ... I'm not in to that. ... Blame it on being short-handed? Nah. I don't blame it on that.''
Roddy Beaubois was solid at the defensive end, but it's hard not to imagine Ramon Sessions having a little more difficulty had he also been forced to wrestle with West. Jason Terry was strong at the offensive end (23 points, 8-of-14 FGs), but proved completely incapable of slowing Sessions.
Sessions finished with 17 points, 7-of-8 field goals, 3-of-4 behind the arc, nine assists and five rebounds ... and proved to be a mystery the Mavs were unable to solve, managing to not only sustain leads but build upon them with Kobe on the bench. The Dallas reserves may have outscored the Lakers 38-to-36, but the once starved Lakers' bench clearly outplayed its counterpart.
"If (Sessions') going to go 7-for-8 and hit 3-of-4 threes," Carlisle said, "then it's going to change their team a lot."
Andrew Bynum was held relatively in check, at least by the measure of points scored. However, this was more a product of a lack of need for his scoring than defensive pressure. He put up nine points on 4-of-5 shots, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked two shots. Considering he averaged 18 points and 14.5 rebounds in the first two meetings between these teams this season, that's a gentle quake at best.
THE OTHER GASOL: Thanks in part to a late season swoon a year ago, much of the positive attention directed at the Gasol brothers has been pointed at Memphis center, Marc. Pau reminded us all that he's still the best Gasol the NBA has to offer by scoring 27 points on an amazingly efficient -- and rather Dirk-esque -- 13-of-16 shooting performance, to go with nine rebounds.
When Sessions wasn't carving out the heart of the Dallas defense, or Kobe wasn't rising over it to sink contested jumpers again and again -- or putting in a circus-toss-back finish to an alley-oop -- Gasol was draining everything he took.
As a group: Gasol, Sessions, Bynum and Bryant combined to hit 35 of their 47 shot attempts, a truly incredible 74.5 field-goal percentage, to score 83 of the 109 Lakers' points.
That's how you fail to stop an opponents primary weapons ... and how a game is lost.
HEY, WE THOUGHT THEY WERE DONE TAPING THAT FRIGGIN' TV SHOW? Maybe not. Kris Jenner was in attendance.
FROM UNSTOPPABLE TO STOPPED: How to put this gently? From appearing lost on both ends of the court, to epitomizing ineffective play, to failing to make anything beyond the most minimal impact on the stat sheet (1 points, 0-of-3 FGs, 1 rebound, 1 steal, 1 turnover in 23:49) .... to sitting on the Lakers bench during timeouts (ok, that one didn't happen): Lamar Odom was as awful as we seen him be this season.
Stats often fail to capture of players true impact, but ... let's put it this way: Yi Jianlian played under three minutes, or about an eighth as much as Odom, and totaled more points (2), more blocks (1) and as many rebounds (1). A player with Odom's talent should be able to accidentally match the output we saw against the Lakers.
We understand that this is his old team, that there are friends he's being asked to compete against ... and maybe even that it was weird watching Sessions wearing LO's old No. 7. ... but it's hard to find any positives of his play, an unfortunate turn after back-to-back games where his effort level and impact on the game seemed to have risen.
This was a clear step back for Odom and time is growing increasingly short to pile on the leaps forward. The Mavs can't fear him withdrawing should they face his former team -- and, do we add OKC to that list with their acquisition of Derek Fisher -- in the playoffs. Jason Kidd once mentioned that Odom needed to earn the trust of his teammates, performances like this are counterproductive towards achieving that.
"We've got to be more consistent on the defensive end," Odom said, "and making a secondary effort by getting defensive rebounds."
The words are there, the correct intentions expressed ... but it's time to start seeing a consistency of result.
Meanwhile, Kobe promises that there is a "mystery to be unlocked'' by the Mavs in regard to his old pal.
"It's hard for him to find his niche,'' Bryant said. "And the fans, they don't really understand what he does or how he can do it. ... I hope they (the Mavericks) don't unlock that mystery. I know. I know how to use his skill set ...''
Kobe also commented on Mavs fans booing LO.
"That's just stupidity," Bryant said.
OK, but it's fake-deep to be talking about "mysteries'' and "niches.'' One good way to solve all that is to simply hustle. ... and then niches find you and mysteries vanish.
VINSANITY SPEAKS: Vince got the start ... but the balance wasn't there ...
"I've been extremely impressed. He takes a lot of pressure off of me. I can be a legitimate two-guard now. He can playmake for others, before, I had to score and playmake for others as well. I don't have to do that, I can be on the receiving end of those plays." - Kobe on Sessions changing Bryant's role.
"I'm not going to blame it on anything,'' he said. "It's just something that I have to figure out.'' -- Lamar on his poor performance.
THE UBERMAN HOLDS COURT: Dirk Nowitzki showed up with a professional haircut, a bit of rhythm missing from his game, and a detailed Video Visit afterwards:
Dirk led the Mavs with 26 points and 10 rebounds, but his shots seemed to come with some indecision. He finishing making just 10-of-24.
MAVSELLANEOUS: Surprisingly, Dallas outscored the Lakers 36-to-28 in the paint, had more fastbreak points (16-to-4) and more second-chance points (9-to-4). Of course, that was washed away by complete domination on the boards by Los Angeles, out-rebounding the Mavs 46-to-29 -- beyond everything else, you can't say Brendan Haywood wasn't missed here -- and the incredibly hot outside shooting from Gasol, Bryant and Sessions ... Pau Gasol sealed the game with only his fifth 3-pointer of the season ... Dallas had 13 steals and only seven turnovers ... A game after having 33 assists against the Nuggets, the Mavs totaled only 15 against the Lakers. ... Dallas is now 27-21. ... So glad to hear Rick sticking by Roddy B in a game in which he didn't get to double-figures. Carlisle's not quick to say Roddy is now struggling: "We've got to have discretion of when to get the microscope out,'' Carlisle said wisely.
CARLISLE'S SUMMATION: The coach offers up the goods:
"They had a great game and we were below average, so, hence the results,'' Carlisle said. "It's them being good and us not being good enough.''
THE FINAL WORD: This was a hard loss to endure, but we'll try not to put too much stock in it. Dallas was playing again without three core-rotation players. If you consider West a starter (he has started 20 of the 29 games he's played in for the Mavs), they took the court without 60 percent of their starting lineup ... against the Lakers at full strength.
Most teams would find similar results when faced with similar circumstances. That may not erase the bruise of this loss, nor will it erase the memory of Lakers' fans chanting "M-V-P" while Kobe Bryant took free throws or quiet the wealth of brand new LA jersey's being snapped in celebration throughout the AAC, but it is a legitimate handicap.
The simple fact is, the already difficult task of defeating a good NBA team is severely compounded when you do so with three of your starters, best defenders and significant contributors.
If you're looking for a silver lining, look to the tone of Rick Carlisle when discussing Marion's injury, when he seemed to downplay it's seriousness by characterizing it as perhaps an extra step of caution.
"Earlier in the year, we took Dirk out for eight days and we gave it a block of time," Carlisle said. "We said we're going to stay the course and make sure this guy is right, and that's basically what we're doing with Shawn."
While we won't quite dismiss the loss, as they each weigh equally in the standings, we'll try to withhold our condemnations in consideration of their circumstances.
With Friday's meeting in San Antonio, redemption need not be too far away.
"The positive is that there is a game on Friday,'' Dirk said. (Otherwise) there was nothing positive."