The Los Angeles Lakers (20-13) finally got some revenge on the Dallas Mavericks’ (21-13) home floor Wednesday night, after being swept out of the second round of the playoffs there last season. More importantly, after coming into Wednesday night’s game with a miserable 4-11 road record this year, the Lakers were able to get a solid road win against a good team.
On a tough night for Kobe Bryant (15 points on just 4-15 shooting, five rebounds, four assists, and seven turnovers), it was up to his teammates to help lift the Lakers over their budding rivals.
His teammates would deliver, but not before a hard fought fourth quarter which involved some heroics by Derek Fisher, some huge plays by the Lakers’ big men, and some frustrating missed free throws.
The first quarter started off strong for the Lakers, who, much like the game against the Portland Trail Blazers a few days before, made it a point to get the ball inside to their big men. Pau Gasol scored 12 points on 6-8 shooting for the Lakers in the opening period, while Andrew Bynum had six points on 3-3 shooting, en route to a 25-21 point advantage at the end of the first.
The second quarter started off well for the Lakers, with fluid ball movement and two quick three-pointers from Andrew Goudelock as the second unit plus Andrew Bynum took to the floor. The Lakers managed a 10-0 run, and went up by as many as 14. However, Vince Carter’s 18 points in the first half kept the Mavs in the game before Dirk Nowitzki dropped in two buckets before halftime, and tied the game 48-48, all.
The second half would start out just as intense with Derek Fisher (15 points on 6-8 shooting from the field, 2-3 from three-point land) starting to warm up, hitting the first two buckets for the Lakers at the start of the third quarter. The Mavericks would continue to fight and keep the game close. Fisher again made his presence felt, this time hitting a three-pointer with just under six minutes left to play, placing the Lakers up, 63-59.
This would prove to be a continuing theme for Fisher, who in the last meeting between these two teams drained a game-winning three-pointer to hoist the Lakers over the Mavericks, 93-90. Bryant continued to struggle in the third quarter, but managed to convert on a jump-shot and then a circus shot after being fouled, despite solid defense from Shawn Marion and the Mavericks’ collapsing defense. The third period ended once again in a tie, 72-72.
The fourth quarter would be no different, with both teams playing hard-nosed defense and exchanging baskets. Neither team could seem to get any separation, that is, until Fisher once again drained another huge three-pointer with just over four minutes left to play to put the Lakers up by five. He would then hit a “tear-drop” runner over an outstretched Dirk Nowitzki for an 89-82 lead. Second chance opportunities and turnovers would help the Mavericks stay in the game, before the Lakers’ big men essentially held them off.
With the game winding down, Bryant threw a pass towards the rim (we’ll call it a pass, even though it could have passed for a shot), which Pau Gasol retrieved, shot, missed, but remained persistent, rebounded his own miss, and eventually tipped the ball in.
On the very next play, Kobe would create a similar sequence. This one was much smoother as he dribbled towards the elbow (where he is deadly), waited for the defense to decide to double-team, and then threw a lob to Andrew Bynum (Bynum converted on four lobs in this contest) who threw it down and put the Lakers up, 93-86 with 1:05 left to play.
But, there was still a late game scare after six bizarre free throw misses by Bryant, Matt Barnes, and Gasol, respectively. Bryant missed a pair of free throws, followed by Barnes. The Mavs came within two points on a Nowitzki tip-in off of a Vince Carter miss, cutting the lead to 93-91.
Gasol was then fouled with 20 seconds left (it looked like a flagrant foul), and missed both of his free throws. However, Barnes was there to grab the crucial offensive rebound, and finally ended the free throw drought, putting the Lakers up by four and essentially putting the game out of reach. Dallas would miss their next shot, and Fisher would hit a free throw, and that was all she wrote. Game, 96-91, Lakers.
Pau Gasol led the way for the Lakers, finishing with 24 points on 11-18 shooting, nine rebounds (four offensive), four assists, and three steals. Andrew Bynum was the second leading scorer with 19 points, 14 rebounds (five offensive), three assists, one steal, and one block. Bryant (4-15, 2-5 from three) and Fisher (6-8, 2-3 from three), as stated above, had 15 points apiece.
Matt Barnes tallied nine points, nine rebounds (three offensive), and two assists in 28 minutes while Metta World Peace had four points, eight rebounds, three assists, two blocks, and one steal as the two complemented each other at the small forward position for the Lakers.
Rounding out the rest of the Lakers’ bench were Andrew Goudelock with six points, Troy Murphy with four points, and Steve Blake with no points, but five assists.
As for Dallas, Nowitzki was the high-point man with 25 points, 12 rebounds, and two assists. Vince Carter was unable to keep up his first half performance of 18 points in the second half, scoring just two points in the second half for a total of 20 points and five rebounds for the game. Mavericks’ sixth man, Jason Terry, scored 16 points and had five assists and four rebounds. Shawn Marion, who played solid defense on Kobe, finished with eight points, nine rebounds (seven offensive), and five assists.
Jason Kidd scored just four points, and had four assists, two rebounds, and two steals. Brendan Haywood managed four points, 11 rebounds (six offensive), two assists, and two steals. Besides Terry, the rest of the Mavericks’ bench totaled 13 points.
Now, let’s break down this Lakers road win.
Next: The Breakdown