The Mavericks opened up the quarter with a slick play which put another two points by Dirks name. They continued to play solid defense and find Dirk offensively to take the lead and eventually have up to eight unanswered points until Bynum finally brought the Lakers back into the game. Nowitzki continued leading the Mavericks over Los Angeles, showing an unsettling reminder of how the Lakers season ended the year before at the hands of Dirk playing the same exact way.
The night continued to be ugly for Bryant, as everyone knew as the quarter came to a close that he would be hitting nowhere near 40. At the rate he was going, Lakers fans would be pleased with Bryant even reaching 20 points. Kobe’s turnovers continued to lead the Lakers to struggle, as well, as he totaled up to four with a little over 15 minutes left in the game. With Bynum leading the team in both points and rebounds, it seemed the young center was the only player wearing purple and gold that showed up to Staples tonight, with everyone else missing in action in both the offensive and defensive ends of the court.
Thanks to a free throw taken by Bynum with 30 seconds remaining, the Lakers pushed themselves over a six point quarter, which would have been the worst quarter of basketball for the franchise since the establishment of the 24 second clock. The Lakers were outscored 16-7 in the third quarter alone, proving they were completely absent on both sides of the ball and truly missing the play of everyone on the court except for Andrew Bynum.
With a minute remaining in the quarter, LA continued allowing the Mavericks to take wide open shots while in return the Lakers continued to miss every shot they seemed to get their hands on. The fact that the Lakers were playing so awful and went into the fourth only down five was either a miracle or a display of how bad both teams were playing tonight. The Mavericks headed into the final quarter of the game up five, 51-46.
If the Lakers wanted to even have a slight chance of winning this game, the fourth quarter was the time to wake up.
Metta World Peace finally made his presence known in the game with a fantastic ally-oop pass to McRoberts which got the fans cheering for the first time in what seemed like hours. Starting off the quarter with McRoberts, Kapono and Morris seemed to be a risky move to anyone watching, but Mike Brown had little to no options left, especially with the play the Lakers brought to the court in the first three quarters.
With Gasol and Kobe combining for 7-26 in the first 36 minutes of the game, all the Lakers could do is hope that Coach Brown’s decision would be the correct one. The single fact that the Lakers were not able to make any of their baskets gave the reserves time to shine, which they continued to do, cutting the Mavericks lead to three just four minutes into the final quarter.
The Lakers finally began picking up their defense and proving that they had been learning under the new coaching staff headed by Mike Brown, but some tricky shots executed by the Mavericks kept Dallas on top as the clock kept ticking down.
Derek Fisher began to lead the Lakers defensively in the closing minutes, forcing Dallas turnovers and pushing the Lakers ahead up to seven points, forcing a Dallas time out. L.A. had a 17-6 run going for them, boosted by Fisher’s six points within the short amount of time remaining in the game. The Mavericks had tried to play with some smaller players in order to generate more offense, but when the Lakers began pulling away they realized they needed to fight fire with fire, and checked Odom back into the game to assist Dirk with size to close out the quarter.
Gasol’s defense on Dirk was one of the greatest performances of the night. He stuck on Nowitzki within the closing minutes of the game, forcing Dirk to take awkward shots, travel, and even force passes that he wouldn’t usually perform.
With time running out and the game tied the ball was back into the hands of Bryant, who Dallas thought was going to take the shot himself. He waited and fed it back to Derek Fisher who drained a three, which was the first of the game for L.A., putting the Lakers back on top with 3.1 seconds remaining in the game. The Mavericks had the ball back on their end of the court, and played tough defense to force Vince Carter to take the awkward three, hitting the rim and allowing the Lakers to win the game 73-70, much to Mark Cuban’s dismay.
The Lakers improve their record to 10-5 next face the Miami Heat Thursday night in Miami.
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