The Los Angeles Lakers got a chance at redemption after a disappointing season opener, and sufficed to say they took it. This one was just ugly.
Dallas, finally getting a respite after a four games in five nights stretch, did not appear rested or particularly interested in playing basketball, for that matter. They were pummeled in all phases of the game, and seemed to give a struggling Laker squad new life. For those with a strong stomach, I'll try to break down how this one went.
L.A came out with noticeable energy right from the start, and had a clear strategy for where they wanted to attack. Kobe Bryant, the NBA's leading scorer entering the night, would be matched against Dallas' defensive stopper Shawn Marion, meaning that O.J Mayo was left to cover Ron Artest(yes, Ron Artest; that's his name). Artest would take advantage, scoring the first 10 points for the Lakers, and just generally abusing O.J Mayo. Kobe Bryant would not even attempt a field goal in the first quarter, content to simply let his teammates hit open threes, or go right past defensive matadors Mayo and Darren Collison.
Of course, once Marion checked out, and Mayo returned to defending the 2-guard spot, Kobe would naturally rekindle his love affair with shooting the ball, scoring 11 points in the second quarter in route to what would be an efficient if reserved night. Also helping out was former Mav Antawn Jamison, who came off the bench to put up a sturdy 19-15 double-double. The dribble penetration from the guards allowed Jamison to slip behind the defense for several easy baskets off cuts, and if you have happened to look at Jamison's season stats or listened to the telecast you would think his play constituted a return from the dead. This seemed to be a bit of a theme for the game: all the struggling Lakers suddenly looked like reborn All-Stars once they got to take to the court with the Mavericks.
L.A would stretch a 13 point lead to massacre-territory in the 2nd, a three before the buzzer by Kobe making it 65-38 and punctuating the complete collapse of the Dallas defense. Of course, the offense was hardly exempt from criticism, as 10 first half turnovers and an uncharacteristically cold shooting night from O.J Mayo took the air out of a scoring attack that has been strong at times but seems largely built on the streaky shooting of its perimeter players. Dallas couldn't get much offense generated in the paint, or in transition, and conversely, their ineffectiveness allowed L.A to get out and get into their sets quickly.
The third quarter constituted the closest thing we got to a comeback attempt tonight, as Dallas would cut it to 22 right before the buzzer. Yes, they "cut it to" 22. Vince Carter, one of the few bright spots for the team, would hit three threes in the last half of the quarter, exhibiting the "want to" that has been fairly refreshing this year, given that he is a long-toothed veteran past his glory days. What would effectively end any hope of an actual comeback was that Dallas fouled early and often in the third, getting into the bonus with 8 minutes left and putting the Lakers on the line for 17(!) free throws in the third period alone.
In the fourth...well, they kept playing, because, I guess they had to. Chris Kaman would foul out at the 7:27 mark, ending what was a very forgettable night for the Michigander. Brandan Wright would take his place, who, despite starting and proving to be one of the few capable scoring options, had not seen the court since the halfway point of the first quarter. I do not have a great guess as to why this was.
L.A would hit the century mark, making it 100-71, at which point the garbage time began. For Dallas, the only redeeming value from these minutes were the high-effort play of rookies Jae Crowder and Bernard James, who, like Wright, saw curiously little action previously. Dallas would mercifully see an end at 115-89, and will try to quickly forget this one as they prepare to start a tough road trip that starts Tuesday in Philadelphia.
- I mentioned the Collison/Mayo perimeter defense, but it was really a huge, huge problem, and I feel like it has been so for several games now. You have to think if it continues we will see major changes to the starting lineup, but who do you take out and who do you put in?
- That duo was also pretty bad on offense. The Mavericks top three scorers, Mayo, Kaman and Collison, combined to shoot 8-37. Yuck. Can't imagine you can win with those numbers.
- Maybe he doesn't even merit a long paragraph at this point, but there was a painfully bad stretch by Roddy Beaubois in this game. He had one drive where he had a relatively easy finish, had he gone to his left hand, but instead switched back to his right and attempted an awkward scoop shot that, of course, he missed badly. Then, he barely grazed the rim on a wide open corner three. Later, he allowed Darius Morris to steal an inbound pass, made no effort to defend his scoring attempt, and then, as Dallas got the ball back, had a lane for an easy layup that he passed up in favor of a pass for a three. He seems to have absolutely no confidence whatsoever at this point, and as his struggles coincide with Collison, you have to wonder if the Dallas front office isn't looking at potential trade targets.
- Continuing that line of thinking, I feel like if they are going to continue to sporadically play Brandan Wright, they might as well trade him. I think he has value, as he continues to score efficiently and has added a passable midrange jumpshot that he displayed once again tonight. With Kaman, Murphy, Brand and even James all earning more minutes, and Dirk nearing a return, better to trade Wright and get something in return instead of letting him rust on the bench.
- Speaking of James, another fine game, albeit it mostly in garbage time: 7 points, 5 boards, 3 blocks, a steal, no TO's and just one missed shot in 15 minutes. He wasn't the only rookie to shine at the end, however: Crowder would score a season and career high 15 points, and added 4 steals to his ledge, as well.
- Brand went 0-3 and had 5 fouls in 17 minutes. Sad face. Murphy was 0-2 and also went scoreless. Really, pick a name out of a hat and chances are he shot poorly. As a team, Dallas 37% from the field, a figure that makes the rebounding disparity(61-39) seem worse than it actually was. Lakers had 20 more defensive rebounds, which isn't too hard when you shoot great and your opponents don't.
Let's just forget this one, shall we?