Photo by Harry How I Getty Images

Everyone was battling for something. The Lakers were fighting to maintain their #2 seed in the West while the Mavericks were fighting to take it. Lamar Odom versus Jason Terry for the Sixth Man of the Year Award. Pau Gasol and Dirk Nowitzki in the Best European Big Man race…okay, there’s no such category but it’s a battle nonetheless.

The Mavericks came into Staples Center tonight to try and take back what the Lakers took from them back in Dallas. They came in with their five-game winning streak, their need to score on the run and their ability to shoot the long ball. They didn’t realize that five-point loss a few weeks ago was just a preview of the real dangers that lie ahead of them if they ever met this Lakers team in the post-season; dangers like overwhelming length, playoff-proven savvy and a hungry defending championship team looking to run over everything and everyone in their way, including a trash-talking bench player and his team’s owner.

Jason Terry told ESPNDallas that he didn’t believe Kobe Bryant wanted to or could, chase him (and Roddy Beaubois) around the court. He said that’s an advantage that Dallas had over the Lakers. With five points on 2-9 shooting, not to mention an ejection and possible suspension, it’s safe to say that Terry’s mouth wrote a check that his performance couldn’t cash. He was anything but advantageous to the Mavericks tonight, first with his poor shooting and absent defense, then with his inability to find composure when his team needed it most. The second leading scorer on a playoff team and the best that Terry could do was to shove Steve Blake to the ground out of frustration for his own failures.

Standing by the Laker bench in the midst of all the commotion that led to four simultaneous ejections (Matt Barnes, Steve Blake, Jason Terry and Brendan Haywood) was Kobe Bryant, who didn’t do so much as raise a hand to make sure his teammates on the sidelines stayed put. He entered the game almost midway into the fourth quarter and kept his team’s mindset in the right place. He was pushed in the back by Dirk Nowitzki on one play, and an official approached him as a cautionary move, but Bryant merely walked towards the free throw line, drilled both, and followed it a few minutes later with a jumper. Bryant had 28 points on 8-21, five rebounds, four assists and two steals. He jumped off the bench after Andrew Bynum’s dunk in the second quarter, raced to engulf Lamar Odom in a bear hug after his third made three pointer, and in the post-game interview with Cheryl Miller, had a wide smile on his face, a rarity from him at this point in the season. Based on his teammates’ efforts and energy tonight, who could blame him?

And who could blame Tyson Chandler’s frustrating evening, having to contend with the likes of Andrew Bynum staking claim of the post? Bynum had 18 points on 6-9 from the field and 6-8 from the stripe. He grabbed 13 rebounds, handed out three assists and blocked two shots. He’s got the drop step to hook shot down to a habit. His 360 pivot just clears the area around him and provides an open look to the basket. He’s as spry as we’ve ever seen him in any season, often beating his teammates to the other end of the floor on defense. All the Mavs’ Chandler got from trying to guard Bynum was four fouls.

Dirk Nowitzki’s 27 points on 10-20 and 13 rebounds might’ve trumped Pau Gasol’s 20 points on 7-14 and seven boards, but in the battle of hustle, Gasol won hands down. While all the attention for the Lakers’ defensive efforts of late have gone to Bynum, Gasol has been discreetly muscling up himself. With the first quarter clock running down, Nowitzki tossed up a floater that was met by a Spanish hand. Gasol contested and therefore changed shots, he was aggressive (got four fouls in the process) and, unlike Nowitzki, had more up his defensive sleeve than a cheap shove to an airborne Kobe Bryant.

When it comes to defense up to his sleeves, however, the Laker who led that way was Ron Artest. In the Lakers’ last meeting with the Mavericks, Shawn Marion went off for 25 points on 11-20. Phil Jackson expressed in an interview before that last game, that his concern was Shawn Marion, not Dirk Nowitzki. So what does a coach do when facing a prolific scorer like Marion? Send in your best defender, Ron Artest, that’s what. With Artest stuck to him the whole game, Marion managed just 9 points on 4-9 and four turnovers. Aside from keep Marion’s production at bay, Artest also scored 13 points on 5-10 (2-4 from 3PT), had a team-high in assists with six. After receiving a pass with this left hand from Lamar Odom, Artest proceeded to shoot that ball with the same left hand AND he was fouled, calling for another bicep-kissing moment.

And finally, if there is any doubt as to who deserves the Sixth Man of the Year Award, let tonight be Lamar Odom’s campaign speech. With just four points at the tail end of the third quarter, Odom hit a corner three to close out before the final break. To open the fourth quarter, Odom hit back to back threes, which he followed with a defensive rebound and coast-to-coast layup. It was literally an 11-0 Odom run. The Swiss-Army knife of a player finished with 16 points on 6-10, 11 rebounds, three assists and zero turnovers. Odom doesn’t need to talk opposing players down to feel exulted; doesn’t need to push and shove opponents to prove he could beat them from anywhere on the court. Odom lets his playing do the talking. A Sixth Man of the Year Award belongs to a reserve who can sub in for a starter without any drop-off in the quality of play on the floor – whether physically (stats) or mentally (attitude), and Lamar Odom is IT.

Tonight was a big win for the Lakers, for all the statements it made and for all ground they’ve managed to cover since the All-Star break. With the ejected reserves from the game, a handful of suspensions could leave the team short-handed in tomorrow’s contest against the Jerry Sloan-less, Deron Williams-less Utah Jazz. But if tonight was any indication, this defending championship team’s determination and solidarity may just be enough to carry them through despite the short roster.

And as a postscript – despite all the intensity, all the clawing and jawing, the Lakers had just SEVEN turnovers. How’s that for composure in time of disorder?!

Box Score
Pre-game Thoughts: With the Spurs losing to the Celtics tonight, the Lakers are that much closer to attaining that #1 seed…if they can get by a Dallas team determined to take back that #2 seed. Jason Terry’s talking about Kobe Bryant doesn’t want to chase him and Beaubois around because he wouldn’t be able to keep up. Mamba and the gang need to put this Sixth Man of the Year runner-up in his place. A win tonight for the Lakers would be HUGE.
Half-time Thoughts: 51-54 – It’s been a close game thus far, with the Lakers dominating the Mavs with their size on both ends of the court, all the while taking care of the ball (Lakers with just 3 turnovers to Dallas’ 8). Dallas is trying to stay in it from the free throw and 3-point lines. Shawn Marion, who had a field day in the last meeting, is just 2-6 from the field for his 4 points, due in large part to Ron Artest’s smothering defense. Dirk Nowitzki leads all scores with 14 on 6-11, Pau Gasol’s got 13 on 6-10, and Kobe Bryant’s right there with 12 points on 5-13. The Lakers are down on the glass, 18 to the Mavs 25. They need to do more work on the boards and close in on those three-point shooters.
Most Thoughtless Play(s)/Player(s) of the Game: Killer B’s…again! On the one hand, they stayed scrappy out there, defending their teammates, taking a stand and getting ejected because of it. But when your stat lines read a combined 9 points on 3-14, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists in 60 minutes of floor time, there’s a lot more you could have done to help your team than play enforcer. Now the Lakers could be three reserves down in tomorrow’s game if suspensions are carried out, the second night of a back to back. We’ll see if today’s statements by the B’s were worth it.
Most Thought-filled Play(s)/Player(s) of the Game: Kobe Bryant – remaining calm in the midst of a storm and leading the team to a blowout win over a tough opponent. He kept teammates on the bench during the scuffle and didn’t make a big deal over the blatant, but ignored, flagrant foul when Dirk Nowitzki shoved him on his way to the hoop.

  • edselPinoy2

    as in the words of KB24 “fun game, fun, fun game”

    so true sir. so true.

  • wbgk1979

    There you go!
    This is a huge win.
    Too bad it took a couple of ejections. On the other hand, it’s a message that the Lakers are toughening up for the playoffs.
    Let’s go after the number 1 spot in the NBA!

  • leandroric

    Hello from Argentina!
    Thanks God we didn´t trade Bynum for Melo!
    I´m the Nº 1 Laker fan in Argentina. I keep wake up to 3:00 am every laker game seeing de game by the web
    Vamos Lakers carajo!
    Ginobili y San Antonio pecho frio

    • Anna Gonda

      Wow, a fan from Argentina! That’s awesome! Laker fans are all over the globe! I love it!

      • alfred17

        yes,it is all over the world! there a lot of laker fans here in philippines. there is also a group called LAKERS PHILIPPINES in facebook.

    • ilikebasketball


      for all those wanting to trade bynum for melo.
      eat crow.

      or become a knicks fan and pray for getting out of the first round of the playoffs.


  • rondo

    Bynum is becoming a star! And i don’t care what the non believers say because it’s being proven every day that they don’t know what the hell they are talking about! Bynum is a bad man developed by the Lakers.

  • Debbie

    Looks like the Purple Reign sent the cuban and the cowgirls back to cowtown with their tails between their legs. He never should of called artest out and jason terry should of kept his big mouth shut. Go Lakers!

  • Chi-Town Walt

    Dallas is Softer than Gasol

  • Jason Terry

    = The Jet Lag

  • FTG

    Kobe = Fake Tough Guy
    Barnes = Fake Tough Guy

  • Lebron is scared

    Pau: Dat Ass

  • ZK

    Great game. Great to see our guys put pussies like Jason “Jet by name, not by game” Terry in their place. I love Matt Barnes letting these punks know they are not going to mess with the Lakers.

    As far as Bynum is concerned, it is good that his importance for this team is finally being recognized.
    He makes this team what it has been in the past 17 games.

    Artest and LO have been bringing it every game. If we can get the Killer Bees going like they were earlier, we will be in great shape.

    Go Lakers, bring No.17 home!

  • Laker8n4te24

    Haha matt barnes is my hero! I love his passion and loyalty to his teammates! And Bynum is becoming a monster at a perfect time!

  • Jason Terry is Weak

    LOL funny ass game they should’ve interviewed the fan who was trying to storm on the court while the game was still going on haha

  • 242LakerFan

    Man, that was some exciting fight last night. Too bad they felt it necessary to have all that basketball nonsense in between. Who wants to see that?
    The Lakers showed who the grown men in this League are, and they don’t wear blue or green.
    You can’t play with this team. Kobe is in Mamba mode, LO is in 6MOY mode, Ron is in DPOY mode and Drew is now in BEAST MODE!
    Now they know you can’t mess with this team either. Why? Because “MATT BARNES WILL KILL YOU”!!!!
    What was interesting about the whole thing? Ron Artest casually sitting and chatting with the asst. coaches during all the hoop-la. Priceless.
    Will we catch SAS? Who knows? Who cares? They can’t beat us anyway. Dallas is no longer a factor. Chicago is the only thing standing between us and HCA for the Finals.
    No stopping the 3PEAT!!!
    Anna, I know you lost a lot of sleep last night trying to piece this thing together in less than three chapters. Nicely done.

  • Kam Pashai