Here are a few aspects of last night’s 109-93 victory we will analyze:
Rebounds – Unlike the loss on Tuesday to the Houston Rockets, the Lakers absolutely dominated the boards, out-rebounding the Mavs, 46-29. The biggest surprise was that neither of the Lakers’ premier big men had huge rebounding nights. But, with 10 combined rebounds from Bryant and Sessions along with Matt Barnes’ nine boards, the Lakers were able to crash the glass by committee. This must continue for the Lakers, as once in a while, even when Gasol and Bynum have big rebounding nights, as a team they still get out-rebounded.
Defense – It won’t show up in the stat sheet, but the Lakers played very solid defense at times, enabling Los Angeles to expand its lead and eventually win. They seem to play very solid defense against playoff-bound teams but not against average or below-average teams. However, the fact that they won against a solid team on the road is a good sign for the Lakers. Perhaps they play horribly against bad teams on the road, but at least they proved they have the ability to get road wins.
Ball Movement/Balanced Scoring – The Lakers played a solid all-around game, and really shared the ball. They dished out 25 assists as a team compared with just 15 for the Mavericks. With so many great individual scorers, the Lakers don’t always move the ball as well as they could. At times, the game will slow down and perhaps it is best to dump the ball into the post and let Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol go to work or even let Kobe Bryant isolate against a helpless defender, but overall when the Lakers are playing together and looking for each other, they are extremely tough to beat.
Pau Gasol/Andrew Bynum – Pau Gasol played an excellent game, and looked as if he was in playoff form. He appears to finally be at ease after the trade deadline passed and he was named team co-captain along with Bryant. Andrew Bynum didn’t have a dominant game, but the Mavericks’ defense double-teamed him as soon as he touched the ball. He still has room for improvement when faced with double-teams, but the fact that Gasol stepped up speaks volumes. Bynum may be the second option on this team, but Gasol is still the second best player on the floor and still more skilled than Bynum.
Bynum has finally arrived as a dominant force in the NBA, and will likely average better numbers than Gasol from here on out due to his aggressiveness and physical nature, but Gasol will still need to take over at times and be as aggressive as he was during the three long runs to the Finals. Bynum was still efficient (4-5 from the field) last night, but when he is unable to have the kind of night he would like, it is encouraging to see Gasol step up and play the way he is capable of. He will be called on much more in the playoffs, so it was great to see that the Spaniard still has it.
Ramon Sessions/Bench – Mostly everyone is wondering when Ramon Sessions will begin to start games, or why Mike Brown is choosing to bring him off the bench. In less than 30 minutes of play, the guy had 17 points, nine boards, and five assists. However, he has provided a huge spark for the reserves, especially Matt Barnes, whom he seems to have a natural chemistry with. The two of them bring a new element to the Lakers that really bothers other teams.
Despite coming off the bench, Sessions was on the floor towards the end of the game, which is most important. Eventually, he should be the starting point guard for this team, but for now it appears to bring a different dynamic to the team by having him spark the second unit and play well with the starters as well. Steve Blake hasn’t been producing much as a starter however, and prior to acquiring Sessions, Blake was playing well off the bench; often dishing out 5+ assists even though he wasn’t scoring much. This might speed up Mike Brown’s decision to start Sessions. Either way, Sessions keeps looking better and better with time.
Kobe Bryant – What more can we say about the Black Mamba that hasn’t already been said? He’s always criticized when he shoots poorly or misses a big shot, but doesn’t always get the praise when he plays well. Well, last night he played extremely well; shooting efficiently, playing within the offense, and hitting all kinds of crazy shots. We’ve stated in the past how we all take him for granted and should truly appreciate the greatness we are witnessing, so we might as well do it again. This season for the Lakers has had many distractions whether it’s been trades, trade rumors, or questions and/or comments of “what’s wrong with the Lakers.” Kobe Bryant won’t be around forever, so let’s all enjoy and appreciate the M-V-P type of year we are all witnessing.
The good thing about the year that Kobe is having is that his team–although they have their ups-and-downs–looks like a formidable opponent for anyone. And that is a true sign of an M-V-P.