Inside Report: Lakers-Mavericks recap — Mavs blanket Kobe, but Bynum lifts Lakers to W
Inside Report: Lakers-Mavericks recap — Mavs blanket Kobe, but Bynum lifts Lakers to W
Earl K. Sneed recaps the action from the Mavericks' tough loss to the two-time defending champion Lakers, as Andrew Bynum's big night proved to be too much for the Dallas team despite the efforts of Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion.
DALLAS — The Mavericks came into their second matchup of the season against the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers with one clear-cut objective: Win and widen the gap between the two teams in the Western Conference standings.
Coming into the night with a 1 ½-game lead over the Lakers in the race for the No. 2 seed, the Mavs took the court looking for the same result as a 109-100 win over the reigning champs back on Jan. 19. But in order for the Mavericks to tack on a full game to their cushion, they knew that first they’d have to find a way to slow down the league’s No. 6 scorer, two-time NBA Finals MVP Kobe Bryant, after the superstar guard quietly tallied 21 points and 10 assists in the first meeting.
“We always game plan heavily for [Bryant] and we always try to make it as difficult as possible for him,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said before the game. “With him, a lot of times you’ve got to hope that he doesn’t have one of those nights where he makes everything, because those are extremely difficult to deal with.”
Playing in front of the largest regular-season crowd (20,619) in the American Airlines Center history, the Mavericks tried to find an answer for Bryant and his team of henchmen. But with the Mavericks (47-19) focused on stopping Bryant — holding this year’s All-Star MVP to just 16 points on 6-of-20 shooting — the Lakers would turn to center Andrew Bynum, as the 7-footer punished the Dallas defense inside with his 22 points and 15 rebounds to lead the visitors to a 96-91 win at the Mavs’ expense.
“Bynum was a monster in the middle, but if you told me before the game that Kobe would only have 16 on a bad shooting night then I think we would take our chances,” Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki would say after the loss.
It wouldn’t be Bryant who gave the Mavericks problems in the first quarter. It would be their own cold shooting, beginning the game 1-for-11 from the floor as a team.
The Mavs’ attention to the offensive glass and forward Shawn Marion’s around-the-rim offense would keep them in the game, however, as the four-time All-Star stepped in for the third straight game for an injured Peja Stojakovic (stiff neck). And despite hitting just 10 of their 30 shots in the period, the Mavericks trailed by just one, 22-21, after 12 minutes of play.
The Lakers (47-20) utilized their size early on, scoring 20 of their 22 points in the paint in the opening quarter with Bynum and Pau Gasol doing much of the damage.
“They’re a big team, Pau Gasol and Bynum are a handful down there,” Marion said.
“They’re one of the longest teams in the league and that’s their advantage,” Nowitzki added. “I think we did a decent job of keeping them off the glass, but they’re still long in there and they still had plenty of opportunities near the basket. That’s why they’re back-to-back champions, because they’re long and the bigs play off of each other.”
The Mavs would begin to find their offensive rhythm in the second quarter, but so too did the Lakers. And while the Dallas team began to assert itself offensively, led by Marion and new addition Corey Brewer, the Lakers continued to dominate the interior.
Point guard Jason Kidd was then forced to sit with three fouls — guarding Lakers forward Ron Artest due to the Mavericks’ undersized backcourt with Rodrigue Beaubois and to keep Marion on Bryant — while a 9-0 Lakers’ run would eventually lift the visiting squad to a 50-44 advantage heading into the half.
“I was down there wrestling, I’m a little outweighed. I just tried to make it tough, but I got in foul trouble early, never got into a rhythm, but it’s a lesson learned to see what I can do a little differently not to commit those fouls,” Kidd admitted. “If you look at the positions, I’m a point guard guarding a small forward who is really a power forward.”
L.A.’s trio of Bryant, Bynum and Gasol combined to score 32 points in the first half, overshadowing Marion’s 15 points to lead all scorers at the midway point. Meanwhile, the Lakers outshot the Mavericks through two quarters, 48 percent to 39 percent, to go along with a 32-18 advantage in points in the paint.
After a relatively quiet first half, Nowitzki would look to assert himself on the offensive end coming out of the locker room, while Kidd played on despite picking up his fourth foul early in the third quarter. But even with Marion’s continuous attack toward the rim the Mavericks couldn’t get over the hump — not even when Bryant went down with a sprained left ankle after coming down awkwardly following a Marion block — trailing 73-65 heading into the fourth quarter.
With the Lakers trying to pull away, sixth man Jason Terry would try to provide a spark in the final period. But Bynum’s dominance inside would prove to be too much for the Dallas defense to withstand, scoring at will in the painted area despite the defensive pressure of reserve big man Brendan Haywood.
“Just couldn’t get over the hump,” Nowitzki said, “I think we really lost the game at the beginning the fourth when Kobe wasn’t even in and we just couldn’t get any stops. They kept pushing the lead with him out of the game.”
After Bynum’s inside play and Steve Blake’s perimeter shooting built up a nine-point L.A. lead, Bryant returned, shaking off the minor ankle injury to try to help his team close the door. But the Mavericks wouldn’t be dissolved of easily, as Nowitzki would rain in back-to-back jumpers to keep the Mavs within six with just over two minutes remaining.
The Mavericks would then reach the penalty after a loose-ball foul on Gasol, giving the home team an opportunity to inch closer at the charity stripe. But Nowitzki would commit a costly turnover late, throwing a lob pass for center Tyson Chandler that sailed out of bounce.
The Mavericks still had life, however, after a breakaway Marion dunk and a 1-for-2 trip to the line by Gasol to make the score 92-89 with 24.2 seconds left. But they wouldn’t get any closer after Terry was unable to connect on a nine-foot jumper with 12.0 seconds remaining, leading to free throws by Bryant that essentially closed the door on the Mavs for the night.
“We had some looks there that we didn’t make. Even that last one there, I couldn’t believe that one rolled out. It was like that all night,” Terry said.
“I think it was a great atmosphere game, the momentum was there, but every time we got a chance to hit a big shot it seemed like we kept missing,” Marion echoed.
Marion and Nowitzki shared game-high honors with 25 points apiece on a combined 21-of-39 shooting, albeit in a loss. The duo also added 12 and 10 boards, respectively, as the Mavericks outrebounded the Lakers, 48-43.
Terry was the only other Maverick in double figures with 13 points.
With Bryant having a rare off night Gasol would serve as the Lakers’ No. 2 scorer, adding to Bynum’s big night with 18 points of his own. Artest added 12 points, as the Lakers outshot the Mavericks, 45 percent to 43 percent, despite nine blocked shots by the Dallas team at the defensive end.
“Tonight, shots just didn’t go. We’re a high-percentage shooting team, and tonight we didn’t shoot a high percentage,” Terry said.
The Lakers finished the night with a 56-38 advantage in points in the paint, overcoming the Mavericks’ 21-12 edge in second-chance points and 19-14 margin in fast-break points.
Still, Nowitzki says that he and he teammates remain confident that they match up well with the reigning champs should the two squads meet in the postseason after their season series finale on March 31.
“We’ve already beat some of the best teams in the league, we beat the Lakers before a couple of months ago, so I don’t think we have to hide from anybody. We can beat anybody, we can also lose to anybody. That’s the fine line in this league and it’s gonna come down to who is playing well in the playoffs,” Nowitzki said.
The Mavericks will now take Sunday off before beginning a two-game road trip with stops in Portland and Oakland when the team matches muscle with the Trail Blazers and Warriors in a back-to-back on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
“Two big games and back-to-backs are never easy in this league,” Nowitzki said when looking ahead, “so hopefully we’re ready.”
Note: The Mavericks head to Rip City to play the Blazers on Tuesday night in a game that will tip off at 9 p.m. CT, airing locally on TXA 21. The Mavs lead the season series 2-0 after narrow home victories by a combined nine points on Dec. 15 and Jan. 4.
The team returns to the American Airlines Center next Friday night to host the Southwest Division-leading San Antonio Spurs. San Antonio leads the season series 2-1. The matchup will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest. Great seats are still available and tickets can be purchased by visiting the American Airlines Center box office, logging on to Mavs.com or by calling 214-747-MAVS (6287).
Stay connected with Dallas Mavericks inside reporter Earl K. Sneed by clicking "like" on his Facebook page or by following him on Twitter. Got a question for EKS? Send your question, along with your first name, last initial, city and state with the subject line "Ask EKS" to email@example.com, and you could be published on Mavsfastbreak.com, the Mavericks' new official blog site.
Individual game tickets are on sale now. Tickets can be purchased at the American Airlines Center box office, on Mavs.com or by calling 214-747-MAVS (6287). Get in on the action and be there for all the thrills!
Fans can visit Mavs.com or call 214.747.MAVS for more information and a complete listing of regular-season home games.