Recap: Kobe, Lakers outlast Mavs despite Dirk's best efforts
Recap: Lakers 103 at Mavericks 99
Kobe, Lakers outlast Mavs despite Dirk's best efforts
DALLAS — Much has changed since the Dallas Mavericks handed the Los Angeles Lakers a season-opening 99-91 loss on their own floor back on Oct. 30.
For two teams that had high hopes and playoff aspirations coming into the 2012-13 season, the journey has been long and winding since the Mavericks captured that win in the Staples Center to kick-start their season. Still, with the season series knotted at 1-1 after the Lakers returned the favor with a 115-89 rout at the American Airlines Center on Nov. 24, the two teams again collided in a Sunday matinee in Dallas with hopes of making a second-half playoff push.
The Mavs also hoped to capture the third meeting as they continued to eye the postseason, sitting one game behind the Lakers in the Western Conference standings and four games behind Houston entering the day for the eighth and final playoff spot. But instead the Lakers (28-29) would again walk off Dallas’ home floor with a win under their belt, outlasting the Mavericks (25-30) in a 103-99 thriller.
“It’s another tough one. I mean, it seems like it’s a theme of the year,” 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki said after the loss. “We’re always right there in some of those games and we can never pull them off. And if you want to be a playoff team, you’ve got to find a way to win at least half of them. We finally pulled one out in New Orleans the other day, but we haven’t really won those close games at a high clip, so that’s really going to hurt us. This was another game that we needed to have against a team that’s right there with us in the hunt and just not good enough.
“It was a big game, obviously, and on the national TV stage. You know, it was a fun one, and we just came up a little short. But the Lakers are always a fun game. The crowd here is always into it. So yeah, it was definitely a fun game.”
The Mavs would find themselves in an early hole after falling behind 7-2 out of the gate, before receiving a boost from a technical foul call on perennial All-Star Kobe Bryant at the 9:16 mark of the opening quarter for arguing with officials. Dallas also forced two fouls on Lakers center Dwight Howard with 7:56 left in the first, forcing the big man to the bench. The Mavs then claimed their first lead at 13-12 after four-time All-Star Shawn Marion leaked out for a transition score.
But with Bryant off to a hot start and Antawn Jamison giving the Lakers a lift off the L.A. bench, it took every bit of Nowitzki’s nine first-quarter points to take a 30-27 edge into the second period.
With reserve guard Jodie Meeks coming alive in the second stanza, the Lakers continued to get a strong effort out of their bench while regaining the lead with a 13-4 run to open the quarter. Mavs center Chris Kaman then made his much-anticipated return to the lineup after missing 10 games due to a concussion, immediately jumping into the scoring with a tip-in on a miss by point guard Darren Collison to bring the Mavs within two, 43-41.
The Lakers immediately responded with back-to-back 3-pointers by Bryant and ex-Mav Steve Nash, however, to keep the home team at bay. But a thunderous slam by sixth man Vince Carter would keep the Mavs within an arm’s reach while exciting the crowd, before Nowitzki continued his first-half assault with a driving three-point play.
Back-to-back scores by backup big man Brandan Wright then helped the Mavs tie the game at 54-all heading into the halftime intermission.
Led by Nowitzki’s 16-point, eight-rebound half to keep pace with Bryant’s 16 points, five rebounds and six assists to lead the Lakers, the Mavericks found themselves even at the midway mark while outshooting the visitors, 51.3 percent to 41.5 percent. The Mavs also held a 23-20 rebounding edge and a 26-14 advantage in points in the paint to overcome their eight turnovers in the first two quarters.
Opting to start veteran big man Elton Brand over rookie center Bernard James to open the second half, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle saw his team open the third period with a score by Brand and a corner 3 by Collison to gain the upper hand on the scoreboard. But Bryant continued to fire away, before Nash answered Nowitzki’s 3 with a trey of his own to force a timeout by Carlisle with the Mavs down 67-62 and 7:51 left in the third.
Mavs leading scorer O.J. Mayo then connected on his first field goal with a floater in the lane after missing the three prior shot attempts and scoring just three points in the first half. Nowitzki then again took matters into his own hands, collecting his 10th rebound of the night before swishing in a 3 from the top of the key to give the Mavs a 71-70 edge with 3:34 left in the quarter.
“With national TV and long timeouts, he looked like he was fresher,” Carlisle said of Nowitzki. “And I think that’s also a good sign going forward.”
Bryant and Nowitzki then exchanged scores before the Lakers surged ahead and took a 79-75 lead into the final 12 minutes of play.
With Howard struggling at the foul line, the Mavs remained close before taking an 82-80 edge on rookie Jae Crowder’s 3 with 9:06 left on the game clock. The Mavs then collectively responded to an array of scores by Bryant, going ahead 90-87 midway through the fourth when point guard Mike James fed Nowitzki for a transition slam.
But, after working on Metta World Peace down low and not receiving a foul call, Nowitzki was assessed a technical of his own with 5:48 remaining for giving an earful to the officials. Howard then tied the game at 90-all with 5:09 left for either team to take control down the stretch.
Splitting a pair at the foul line with 4:01 left, Howard put the Lakers ahead before Mayo was called for a technical after arguing as well following his fifth foul of the night on a drive by Bryant. Mayo would get his revenge, however, draining a 3 to bring the Mavs within one shortly before Nash’s long-range bomb that forced a timeout by Carlisle with his team trailing 99-95 and 1:12 left to answer.
Nowitzki wasn’t done, drawing Howard’s fifth foul with a lefty score inside before connecting on another jumper to reach the 30-point plateau. World Peace then cashed in on 1 of 2 at the foul line to put the Mavs in a 102-99 hole with 16.8 seconds remaining to tie.
But the Mavs would miss on their opportunity to draw even after a timeout by Carlisle led to a broken play with Carter feeding Mayo in the corner for a miss from behind the arc, leading to Carter’s foul on Bryant and the sharpshooter’s split trip to the charity stripe to go up four with 3.9 seconds left.
“We were trying to get a good quick two if we could, and if the 3 presented itself, we wanted to step into it. You know, I don’t know if [Mayo] even got behind the line, but you know, it was a look. It wasn’t a great one, but, you know, there’s too many other things we hadn’t done well that put us in that position leading up to that point really over three quarters. That’s just how those things go,” Carlisle said of the sequence.
Carter then missed from 3 before the final buzzer sounded.
“Definitely a missed opportunity,” Brand concluded. “It’s like a two-game swing. You know, we had it. We were right in it till the end, took a few leads and just couldn’t finish off. Kobe got hot and that hurt us. Definitely a two-game swing. We needed this one with so much at stake.”
“Just weren’t good enough to get the stops we needed,” Nowitzki added. “Just made some errors, and that comes back to bite you against good teams.”
Finishing with season highs in points and rebounding, Nowitzki also collected his first double-double of the season with 30 points and 13 rebounds, hitting 11 of his 19 shots.
“You know, it always comes back to if I would have been in this shape all season long. I’d probably think we’d be right there or might be in the playoffs,” Nowitzki admitted. “But I wasn’t. I missed almost two months. I’ve been fighting back a long time and obviously that didn’t help. Now, we’re in this situation. We’ve got to make the best of it and try to keep battling. We’ve got a lot of big games coming up and we play Houston twice. We play some of the other teams that are right in front of us, so we’ve got to make the best out of it and keep pushing.”
Off the bench, Carter added 15 points and Brand recorded 14 points to add support.
Bryant, meanwhile, led the Lakers with a game-high 38 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists.
“He was in a groove,” Carter said when summing up Bryant’s night. “He got rolling early and we got him taking the pump-fake shot into his fadeaway. When he’s making that, it’s just tough.”
“I think he was rolling today,” Nowitzki added. “He made some tough shots, especially at the beginning of the fourth. He got them going. … We wanted to try to mix it up on Kobe and sometimes play him one on one or sometimes bring the help early, but he made some tough shots. It’s not like he was wide open all night. A couple of the 3s were like from 30 feet, so he was spectacular.”
The Lakers’ 47.2 percent shooting also bettered the Mavs’ 44.8 percent, hitting 13 of 25 from 3-point range and ending the night with a 45-44 rebounding edge as well to overcome Dallas’ 44-24 advantage in points in the paint.
“I think when we look at it on film, we’re going to see a lot of other missed opportunities offensively and other things we could have done defensively that were unrelated to [Bryant] that would have put us in position to win,” Carlisle concluded.
“It’s one game that we felt we could have won. We just didn’t win it and we didn’t get it done, so we have to win the next one. … Every game’s a big game, so this is not any different from playing anybody else. I don’t care about the players or the records on the floor. We need to win games, so every game we play is a big game right now,” Carter said while looking ahead.
Note: The Mavs will now take Monday off before returning to their home floor Tuesday night against the Milwaukee Bucks prior to heading out on a three-game road trip. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS (6287) or by visiting Mavs.com.
Mavs Fans: Are you hopping on the beard bandwagon? Show your support and make your pledge today!