Lakers Final Score: Mavs Trounce Lakers 99-91

Stephen Dunn

The Los Angeles Lakers struggled in all facets of the game on opening night, losing big to a Dallas Mavericks team missing some key components.

In an inauspicious start for the Los Angeles Lakers superteam, the Dallas Mavericks beat the Lakers all over the court en route to an easy victory by the final score of 99-91. It was a tale of two halves for the Lakers. In the first half, they shot 55% from the field and assisted on 16 of their 24 baskets, but still trailed by two due to missed free throws, turnovers, and poor defensive rebounding. The second half was more of the bad, without any of the good. The offense broke down while the defense stayed poor, and Dallas pulled away in the 3rd quarter and never looked back. The Lakers piled on some garbage time points, including a Pau Gasol three at the buzzer, but this game was not in any way close.

Ironically, the worst part of the preseason looked to be the best part of the Lakers game early on. Running almost exclusively Princeton sets, the Lakers' first half offensive execution was strong. The assists came from all over the board, with every starter except Kobe getting into the act. But the defensive rotations looked as neglected as one might expect from a team counting on big defensive contributions from a guy they haven't played very much with. And it has to be said; defensively, Dwight Howard was very much off his game.

A step slow the whole night, Howard struggled to provide the kind of defensive cover the Lakers will require to be anywhere near above average on that end of the floor. He was stuck on 6 rebounds towards the end of the fourth quarter until a late game flurry of offensive rebounds brought his total to ten. And his free throw shooting was the kind of liability that really hurts a team's chances of having an efficient offense, just 3-14 on the night. And he wasn't the worst performing newcomer of the evening. Steve Nash had a night to forget, hitting just 3-9 shots and 4 assists, he looked out of sorts in every possible way.

But much of the blame for the Lakers' lackluster performance will surely be aimed at head coach Mike Brown. I'm not sure who's angrier at Mike Brown right now, Lakers fans who want the team to do well, or non-Lakers fans who just want to see Steve Nash and Dwight Howard be the best pick and roll combo the world has ever seen. Either way, there was plenty of ammunition for both sides of the line to begin discussing how long things can carry on like tonight. But this is just the first game of a long season, one in which it was always a given that the Lakers would need some time to figure things out. And credit to Dallas, they played a hell of a game.

The only real bright side of the night was the efficient play of Kobe Bryant. Scoring 22 points on 11-14 shooting, Kobe did most of his work off the ball and was everything Lakers fans could want him to be when sharing the court with so many other stars. That he performed so well when we weren't sure if he would even play is a good sign that the Mamba is ready to fill the role the team needs him to fill.

The most obvious takeaway from tonight's performance is that Dwight Howard is going to need some time just getting his complete game back, and the Lakers may not look like a particularly inspired team until he does.










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