Darren Collinson threw a pass and Dwight Howard jumped in, intercepted the ball and threw it over his head as he fell into the first row of seats at American Airlines Center. It resulted in a tip-in by Darius Morris, which gave the Lakers a 100-71 lead halfway through the fourth quarter. Up by almost 30-points and still playing defense – that is how you play to win.
After losing the last two games (both of which they could have and should have won), the Lakers came out with a vengeance, a plan of attack and a whole of energy in Dallas; qualities they felt short on providing in the last couple of contests. Add to that a collective team effort, and there’s no way the Lakers were going to give up this game. The Mavericks were simply outrebounded, outhustled, outsmarted and outplayed. If the final score isn’t the most impressive indication of this win, then Mike D’Antoni emptying his bench definitely is.
• Metta Strikes Again – Metta World Peace did the majority of his damage in the first quarter, but what a start he provided his team. MWP probably took a look at his defender, O.J. Mayo, and started plotting his attack. Three-pointer, layup, layup, three-pointer – Metta had the Lakers’ first 10 points of the game. By the end of the first quarter, he had racked up 16 points on 6-7 from the field, including 4-5 from downtown. He finished with another productive stat line of 19 points on 7-10, 5-7 from downtown, six rebounds, three assists, a steal and just a pair of turnovers in over 30 minutes of playing time. MWP’s contributions this season have been beyond anyone’s expectations. Along with Kobe Bryant, he has been the most efficient player on the team.
• Jamison & Company-Part II – It was only a matter of time, because a player with Jamison’s history is nowhere near as bad as the start he had this season. Kobe Bryant said in a post-game interview, that the former Sixth Man of the Year was working too hard trying to fit into the team, when all they wanted was for him to play his game. For the second game in a row, Jamison showed he can be relied on. Before halftime, he’d already had a double-double, with 11 points and 11 rebounds. By the time he checked out of the game, he had 19 points on 7-11 from the field, a game-leading 15 rebounds, and not a single turnover in almost 30 minutes of playing time.
Jamison’s efforts off the pine were not the only notables for the reserves, however. Jodie Meeks chipped in 11 points on 4-8 from the field, including 3-5 from behind the arc. He also grabbed five rebounds and handed out a trio of dimes.
The Laker bench as whole provided the team with 42 points, 32 rebounds and six assists. It may not be a statline they are expected to produce in every game, but any contributions close to it would be welcomed.
• Comeback Bigs – After two consecutive no-shows, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard played with more life and definitely more aggressiveness in tonight’s game. Gasol had an all-around solid game, finishing with 13 points on 4-7 from the field and managed to convert 5-8 from the charity stripe. He also grabbed nine rebounds, handed out three assists and added one block. Whatever made so reluctant in Memphis seemed to subside in Dallas. As for Howard, 15 points, seven rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a game-leading five steals, did more than his stat line could reflect. It wasn’t his offense that did the team good tonight – it was his defense. In a stat that is not recorded, Howard altered many of Dallas’ shot attempts at the rim. His huge frame just rising up in the act of blocking was enough for the Mavericks to think twice about their shot at the last second they’re about to shoot it.
• Ready Steady Bryant – Two points from two free throws, zero shot attempts, zero turnovers and four assists – that was Bryant’s stat line in the first quarter where the Lakers outscored the Mavericks 36-23. Charged with primary ball-handling responsibilities until Steve Nash returns, Bryant realizes the importance of getting his teammates involved offensively to start the game. He said after the game that he assesses the defense, and will either run a play or score himself if he’s given the open lane or shot. Bryant finished with 19 points on 7-11, three rebounds and a team-high five assists. After 14 games, he’s still shooting over 50% from the field.
• All A-Board – The Lakers outrebounded the Mavericks 61-39, only allowing Dallas nine offensive boards for the game.
• Score! – Whether it was Dallas’ porous defense or the Lakers’ aggressiveness, paint points don’t lie, and the visiting team accumulated them, 50-36, in their favor. The Lakers’ offense looked like a layup drill out there, as it should. They had a 36-point first quarter on 65% shooting, and 65 points for the first half on a still-efficient 59% field goal percentage. Their largest lead was 37 points and they had six players in double figures.
• Defense – Dallas scored just 38 points on 38% from the field in the first half, with no Maverick scoring in double-figures. In the second half, despite shooting just 39% themselves, the Lakers still kept the home team to a 36% field goal percentage. They answered every run with a run of their own, never allowing the lead to dip below the 20-point mark.
• Energy – The most notable difference between the Lakers vs. Sacramento/Memphis and tonight’s version? Their overall energy and effort. They looked like a TEAM, with the same goal, the same plan and the collective wits to go after the victory TOGETHER. It can’t be emphasized enough – teamwork works every time.
• Turnovers – With all the good that came out of tonight’s game, the glaring negative was the turnover count. 19 turnovers for the night. Their transition defense reacted a lot faster than it has all season, and the effort prevented the Mavericks from taking greater advantage of their carelessness. It’s an easy stat to overlook because of their overall efforts on both ends of the floor, but the Lakers need to take better care of the ball.
It was a much-needed win for the purple and gold, in more ways than one. It was their first road victory, a win after a 2-game losing streak and a dominant finishing-off of an opponent. All the Lakers have to do is build on this.