The Dallas Mavericks are somewhat of an anomaly for me personally in the Western Conference. They’re a solid team that annually makes the playoffs, even making it to the NBA Finals against Dwayne Wade’s Miami Heat in 2006, yet I can’t say I have any personal feelings about them. I’ve had a venomous hatred of both the Spurs and the Suns during the past 10 years, I’ve disliked the Jazz and Nuggets and Blazers, but I rarely think twice about the Mavericks. I think it’s because their playoff bracket is normally on the other side of the Lakers’; they always have to go through San Antonio or somewhere else to reach L.A and haven’t done so that I can remember.
I do respect the Mavericks though; they have their own skilled 7 foot tall European in Dirk Nowitzki, and a perennial All-Star and 1994 co-rookie of the year in Jason Kidd. Their bench is full of skilled role players such as Jason Terry, and they brought in Tyson Chandler specifically to contend with the Lakers bigs in the paint. And of course, there is the man leading the organization: Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. I want to dislike him, but he just makes me laugh. He likes to get a rise out of fellow owners, players, and coaches, as evidenced by his reference to Phil Jackson as Jeannie Buss’ “boy toy”.
The first half of the game was exciting, fast paced and excellent offensively on both sides. Although the first play of the game resulted in a foul on Pau Gasol, Ron Artest started things off right with his patented three point corner shot for the Lakers’ first points of the game. Derek Fisher had a strong showing as well, hitting a pretty rainbow jumper and following it soon after with a three of his own in transition. I feel like it’s rare for D Fish to have a good offensive game (playoffs excluded), so it was good to see him contributing in the offense. Kobe was playing the facilitator role to perfection, and ended the first quarter with an assist on a Steve Blake shot from downtown.
Unfortunately, Lamar was the only bench player that was truly able to contribute, which would become a problem as the game went on. For his part, Odom was fantastic- he got a number of rebounds and put back emphatic dunks a few times in the beginning of the second quarter. Halfway through, he had already amassed 6 points and 7 rebounds on his way to a 20-10 double double. Gasol continued his dominance of the game on both ends; he hit left handed hook shots and raced back to grab defensive boards. He dished to teammates, swatted shots attempts, and tried to create as much havoc in the paint as he could, with some help from Andrew of course. Pau finished the half with 16 points and 3 assists, and ended up with 23 points, 4 assists and 5 rebounds for the game.
Next: Here come the Mavs