The Lakers opened up their two-game road trip at the home of the current NBA champion Dallas Mavericks. After being able to pull off a win versus Portland in Los Angeles Monday night, the Lakers were needing to continue playing the way they did in the first half to pull off a plethora of wins the rest of the season. A great amount of ball movement, smarter shot decisions and a positive impact from the bench helped L.A. take a 29-7 lead at the end of the first quarter, which they continued to grasp on to for the remainder of the game despite offensive surges from the Trail Blazers. With drama currently buzzing around the Lakers organization surrounding the motives and actions of the front office, forcing even Laker great Magic Johnson to chime in, Kobe Bryant was looking to lead the team to another win for a bit of motivation.
Although the Lakers came away with a win against the Mavericks earlier in the season, it felt a lot less than revenge-worthy after Dallas swept them out of the playoffs the previous season. The Mavericks have won seven of their last eight games, with their only loss coming to the Lin-crazed Knicks on Sunday. With Dallas being propped in the top four for allowing the lowest amount of points in the league, the Lakers had to rediscover their offense from more than just their starting five and continue a locked down defensive strategy in order to fly off to Oklahoma City with another win under their belts.
Los Angeles started off the game on top, finding both Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum consecutively to rack up six points in the first two minutes. Gasol, who had a questionable performance against the Mavs in the playoffs, was looking to play stronger in the paint. He was demanding the ball, getting himself open and taking part in each offensive play to help the ball movement. He started off the quarter 4-5 from the field, making the Lakers, who have recently looked awful on the road, look somewhat impressive in Dallas.
With Dirk Nowitzki not scoring his first three shot attempts in the first eight minutes of the quarter, the Mavs were instead getting baskets from Vince Carter, who had a shocking eight points with 3-7 shooting. Dallas was able to make up for Pau Gasol’s early offensive game with a surge as the halfway mark in the first, cutting the Lakers lead to only two. Metta World Peace finally hit the shot he had been avoiding to attempt a majority of the shortened season, drilling a three as soon as the teams returned to the floor from of a timeout.
Gasol continued to push past all of the negativity surrounding the team entering the game, cleaning up on the boards and hitting a game-high 12 points in the first, making up for Kobe Bryant’s lack of baskets as the quarter came to a close. Another three-pointer off of Vince Carter put Dallas only down four, but the Lakers were still ahead 25-21.
Bryant and Nowitzki were still unable to get any baskets as the second quarter began, allowing Vince Carter to shine and completely dominate the Lakers offensively. Dirk Nowitzki finally hit his first jumper of the game at the nine-minute mark of the quarter, but the next few offensive plays from Dallas were not impressive, including a missed three-point attempt from Jason Terry. Andrew Bynum continued to dominate the paint with his size over his opponents, clutching a nice feed from Matt Barnes and smashing it home to put the Lakers back up four.
Rookie Andrew Goudelock made an automatic presence in the game, hitting back to back threes as soon as he stepped on the court, leading the visitors to a 10-0 run. The Lakers then began to force turnovers and prove that some of Mike Brown’s offensive knowledge had been rubbing off on them, even shutting Nowitzki down in the post. Carter finally got the wheels in motion again for the Mavs with a three, followed up by another three by Jason Terry to cut L.A.’s 14 point lead to eight. Dallas was hot from beyond the arc, having 15 of their points in the first two quarters from three point land.
As long as the Lakers continued feeding their big man in the post they continued knocking down baskets. Bryant, who was still looking for his first field goal of the game, finally drained a three over Jason Kidd. The Mavericks began figuring out their offense with about three minutes remaining in the half, finding Marion, Wright and Carter on multiple occasions to get the game within three, despite their big names not sporting impressive performances. Bryant continued to lack rhythm, and looked to be forcing shots while committing turnovers. A basket by Dirk Nowitzki with six seconds remaining in the half put the Mavs on a 20-6 run, tying the game up at 48 at halftime.
Next Page: Second Half