The Los Angeles Lakers entered the American Airlines Center on Tuesday for a matchup against the Dallas Mavericks. While both teams are out of the current playoff standings, the teams are trending in different directions. Luke Walton’s squad has yet to win a game since the All-Star break and have fallen into the bottom two standings wise in the NBA. On the other hand, Rick Carlisle’s squad is 2.5 games back of the eighth spot and have won six of their last 10.
The 19-44 Lakers started the game with their usual lineup of late, with D’Angelo Russell, Nick Young, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle and Tarik Black. The 26-36 Mavericks countered with Seth Curry, Yogi Ferrell, Wesley Matthews, Dirk Nowitzki and Harrison Barnes.
Tuesday also brought about an official change for the Lakers, as they formally announced Rob Pelinka as the new general manager.
The fans at the American Airlines Center packed the stands, in anticipation of a milestone for their franchise player and future Hall-of-Famer. Nowitzki came into Tuesday’s contest 20 points shy of 30,000 career points, which only five other players have done in NBA history.
Nowitzki came out hot form the start, ready to make an early impact. He started the game with a mid-range jump shot, the first points of the game. The Germany native then stepped out and demonstrated that killer three-point shot, with threes on back-to-back possessions.
Young also came out highly aggressive, attempting to start off hot during his recent inconsistent stretch. He hit a mid-range jump shot for the Lakers first points of the contest, while taking Matthews off the dribble and converting two free throws.
While on a drive, the big man popped out and converted the jump shot. He then took Russell from the post and hit his patented fadeaway, as he started the night 5-for-5 from the field, with 14 points. Sixth man Jordan Clarkson entered the game and brought about his usual change of pace. He quickly knocked down a 20-footer off a curl, while using an off-ball screen to hit a three-point shot from the left wing.
Nowitzki’s hot start propelled the Mavericks early on, as they opened up a 23-14 lead halfway through the first quarter. Recent acquisition Nerlens Noel also got acquainted into the game, as he converted an alley-oop slam on the pass from Devin Harris.
While the crowd rose to their feet on the final possession, the Lakers sent a double team at Nowitzki, who was two points shy of the record. He kicked it to Harris on the wing, he nailed a three-pointer. Clarkson answered back with his own three at the end of the first, thanks to an assist from Randle.
At the end of the first quarter, the Mavericks held a 38-29 lead. It should be noted that Walton elected to play Russell, Ingram and Randle for the entire first quarter, the trio totaled 17 points.
The entire arena understood the tension in the building entering the second quarter, as the former Finals MVP was just a bucket shy of a tremendous goal, after scoring 18 points in the first frame. While the fans and Lakers had their eyes on the 7-foot German, the Mavericks continued running their offense.
Harris used Nowitzki as a distraction, finding Noel for another alley-oop dunk, this time over Corey Brewer. Carlisle then continued to run the offense through perhaps the greatest international player of all time, as Nowitzki nailed that final bucket on none other than his fadeaway shot over Nance Jr.
The crowd erupted to their feet, while owner Mark Cuban and his teammates huddled around him after a Walton timeout. American Airlines Center then gave a standing ovation to the 13-time All-Star, while he thanked the crowd upon receiving constant cheers.
The Lakers continued having trouble on their defensive rotations, while leaving three-point shooters open on the weak side. Dallas converted seven of their first 10 three-point attempts, including a Matthews three that gave them a 59-40 lead. The Mavericks were able to reach 59 points just under the six-minute mark of the second, with Walton angered by the defensive effort.
Although Randle suffered from a series of offensive fouls, his train-like style of play is able to set sturdy picks. Young curled off of No. 30 and nailed a three, as his defender couldn’t get past Randle’s pick.
The Mavericks knocked down a final basket of the first half on a three-point play (missed free throw), as the Mavericks took a 70-52 lead into halftime. Nowitzki led all scorers with 25 first half points on 9-for-12 shooting, along with four rebounds. Clarkson led the Lakers with 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting, while Randle collected 10 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
Walton elected to move Clarkson into the starting lineup for the second half, in place of Black. A pair of Ingram free throws opened up the scoring for the Lakers, while a Matthews three and Barnes shot and free throw gave them a 76-54 lead.
The Mavericks were able to consistently beat the Lakers guards off the dribble throughout the night, As Curry, Ferrell and Harris each scored points in the paint. The guards ability to get to the basket certainly led to many rotations towards three-point shots, as the Lakers simply didn’t have an answer.
The Mavericks reached 90 points for the game at the halfway mark of the third quarter, while the Lakers only had 68 points. Dallas was able to increase their lead when Curry used a step back shot to create a four-point opportunity, after being fouled by Ingram.
The third quarter saw much of the same as the first two quarters, as the Mavericks were outplaying the Lakers in all facets of the game. Their constant defensive pressure put the Lakers into many difficult scenarios, which led to their five third quarter turnovers.
The Mavericks shot 59.1 percent from the field through three quarters, as they took a 103-74 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Lakers started the fourth quarter with a complete bench unit, as Walton wanted to use this time to gauge the production of his role players. While the Mavericks consistently touched towards a 30-point lead, the effort of both teams continued on.
Ennis fed Brewwer on a fast break for a driving, three-point play at the rim. The defensive effort of Brewer, Ennis and Clarkson were able to cause confusion on defense. Carlise wasn’t pleased with the lackluster effort, as he called a timeout while yelling at his players.
The Mavericks also emptied out their bench, as Nowtizki was stepped off the court at the 11-minute mark for the rest of the game.
Ennis continued to feast off of the Maverick’s second unit guards, scoring back-to-back buckets to pull the Lakers to a 111-90 score. He hit a tough jump shot on the right wing with contact, and drove in and used his body to create separation for a left-handed lay up.
Although the Lakers were down by 20 points, the bench unit continued with a tough defensive presence. Brewer, Ennis and Thomas Robinson continually pressed full court, attempting to create havoc. The effort was a huge plus for this squad, especially with the starters watching.
Walton then reinserted his starters for the final five minutes of the game, as they attempted to pick up off of the second unit’s defensive intensity. They continued with the full court pressure, although they were down 120-99.
When it was all said and done, the Lakers fell victim to the Mavericks by a score of 122-111. Randle was able to secure his third triple-double of the season, with 13 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists.