Lakers Withstand Late Surge; Ride Bench to Victory

The Lakers were looking to rebound from their tough loss in Miami on Thursday against the team with the second best record in the Western Conference, the Dallas Mavericks. Entering the game the Mavericks were only 1.5 games ahead of the Lakers, and this game could go a long way in determining the final standings with only 15 games left on the schedule.

First Quarter
The game began frantically, and both teams were running up and down the floor before any rhythm was established. The pace caused hurried shots on both ends, and both teams were cold to start out. The Lakers managed to get on the board first and built a small lead before the Mavericks were able to get on track. Turnovers cost the Lakers early in the quarter as well, and on multiple occasions it resulted in fast-break opportunities that were cashed in by the Mavericks.

After the Lakers settled down they were able to control the tempo a little better. Los Angeles began to find Pau Gasol in the paint and use their size to their advantage. Another early mismatch was the pairing of Jason Kidd on Ron Artest defensively. Ron was able to post up Kidd and use his size to help the Lakers rack up some points in the paint. When the first quarter came to an end the Lakers were leading the Mavericks 22-21.

Second Quarter
The second quarter was similar to the first quarter in many ways, and throughout the quarter the Lakers managed to maintain their lead. They used the size of Andrew Bynum and Gasol in the paint to outscore the Mavericks in the post. Timely shooting from Steve Blake and Ron Artest also boosted Los Angeles to their largest lead of the half midway through the quarter.

As was their problem in Miami on Thursday, the Lakers gave up too many offensive rebounds. This resulted in second-chance points for Dallas that allowed them to stay within striking distance for most of the quarter. At the half the Lakers were holding the Mavericks to 39% shooting while shooting 48% from the floor themselves, and were leading 50-44 at the half.

Third Quarter
Entering the third quarter the Lakers were looking to tighten up the defensive glass and limit the turnovers. They started the quarter on a strong note, and managed to build their lead over the first five minutes of the quarter. A bright spot for the Mavericks was Dirk Nowitzki, who managed to sink several long jump shots to start the quarter. However, another Ron Artest three-pointer killed the Dallas momentum and put the Lakers back up by eight.

The second half of the third quarter was dominated by Shawn Marion. Marion’s play was reminiscent of his days as a member of the Phoenix Suns, as he got several offensive rebounds and kept the Mavericks in the game. However, Marion was involved in a big play towards the end of the quarter after contesting a Kobe Bryant jump shot. Bryant came down awkwardly and appeared to roll his ankle. Bryant was in severe pain and immediately signaled to be taken out of the game. The Lakers finished the quarter well without Bryant, though, and entered the final quarter leading 73-65.

Fourth Quarter
The final quarter began with a pleasant sign for the Lakers, as Bryant re-joined his teammates on the bench after spending a few minutes in the locker room. However, it was yet to be determined whether or not he would make an appearance on the court in the fourth. As for the game itself the Lakers opened the quarter with plenty of momentum. As is customary with Los Angeles, the team opened the fourth with a variety of bench players as well as Andrew Bynum. They played aggressive defense that confused the Mavericks and allowed the Lakers to control the tempo of the game.

Despite missing most of their starters, the Lakers managed to increase their lead in the first half of the fourth. Steve Blake played one of his best games as a Laker, and the team continuously attacked the paint. Bynum and Lamar Odom proved too difficult for the Dallas big men to handle, and abused the Mavericks in the paint.

Down the stretch the Mavericks managed to hang in the game with the Lakers. After Los Angeles put the starters back onto the floor they were unable to pull away from Dallas. Bryant re-entered the game for the Lakers, but couldn’t find any sort of offensive rhythm. However, Artest rebounded a missed Bryant jump shot with less than a minute to go to put the Lakers up six.

Several frantic possessions ended the game, but in the end the Lakers made their free throws to hold off the Mavericks. Los Angeles pulled to within half a game of the Mavericks after defeating Dallas 96-91.

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