Well then, that was satisfying. The Los Angeles Lakers dropped bombs on the Dallas Mavericks and cruised to an easy victory, ending the compact stretch of games that ended up looking like an Oreo cookie, stuffed with two losses in between two wins. The tone was set by Metta World Peace, who had 16 first quarter points, and continued to show his marksmanship from deep going 4-4, along with a few nice drives past O.J. Mayo. He ended his night with 19 points (5-7 from deep), 6 rebounds, and 3 assists. Metta World Peace crushed the Mavericks like a can of Shasta in his right hand, which could do no wrong tonight. Final score, 115-89.
Antawn Jamison continues to show why he can be so valuable to this team and it goes far beyond just his offensive abilities (he ended the night with 19 points, however). His defense against the Grizzlies front court was worth a nod in a losing effort, but tonight he did an even better job working against the Mavericks. He rotated, he helped, and boy did he ever rebound. There were 15 boards to be had for Antawn Jamison on this night. Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard combined for 16. In the past two games he's injected a little something called... wait for it... effort into the team and it shows. The fact that he's been productive in his time on the court has opened up the door for Mike D'Antoni to alleviate Pau's minute overload, and so long as Jamison is playing even in the realm of this type of effort, that's a welcome development.
The "other" guy on the bench the Lakers will be relying heavily on, Jodie Meeks, also had himself a solid night. 11 points isn't overly impressive, but the 3-5 shooting from deep is key. His ability to catch and shoot from long range is critical for the Lakers success as they continue to build towards becoming the team they intend to be. He still needs to quit trying to create off the dribble, as more often than not it turns into something even Metta World Peace would pause while watching, but aside from that his shot starting to become something reliable is ANOTHER welcome development.
The Lakers defense showed up again, stifling the Mavericks through the first half. 38 points total for Dallas through 50% of the game, while the offense steamrolled to 65 points. Yeah, it was that kind of night. The Lakers D has shown the capability of holding teams to abysmal stretches, and to no ones surprise, this heavily relies on what Dwight Howard shows up on the floor on any given night. Is it the 75-80% Dwight who reminds us all that he's still trying to recover from the back surgery, or is it the Dwight that erases that thought entirely until the game's over and in retrospect it hits you that he's still not 100%. There doesn't appear to be any easy way to project his health, one would think prognosticating that he'd be playing at that 75% level in the fourth game in five nights would be a safe bet, but he was anything but. His stats weren't gaudy: 15 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 assists, and 5(!!) steals, but he impacted the game far beyond the stat sheet's capability of expressing (or, perhaps that 38 first half expresses it just fine). He was active out on the floor and deterred countless drives to the rim.
The "vanishing" front court decided to appear in full effect tonight, with Pau Gasol also putting in work against the Mavericks. His 13 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 assist effort was all within the tidy confines of 28 minutes. Early in the game the Lakers worked to get Pau touches in the paint, while also still using him as a release valve in the mid-range, and it kept him engaged on both ends of the floor. How D'Antoni utilizes Gasol, and how he manages his minutes is going to be an ongoing experiment until a balance is found. Tonight, though, it looked spot on. Mainly because the bench did a great job of giving the starters room to breathe in a blowout game. But when the shots aren't falling for Antawn? That's the challenge for Mike D'Antoni.
Meanwhile, Kobe Bryant opened the game as a facilitator, playing within the flow of the game. He ends the night in a three way tie for leading scorer for the Lakers at 19 points, along with 5 assists, 3 rebounds, and one thundering dunk from Dwight Howard on a scoop alley-oop pass. This is the type of game that will bode well for maintaining Kobe Bryant deep into the playoffs, as he never needed to force the issue on the offensive end (though at times, Kobe-itis got the best of him). Still, his passing helped set the tone to open the game and helped the Lakers reach the jugular of the Mavericks in the first swing of the knife.
The Mavericks made a few futile attempts at putting in a dent in the massive gap between the two teams, led by Vince Carter and his team high 16 points (4-7 shooting from deep). Still, there simply wasn't enough firepower through the rest of the team to compete with a Lakers team that was clicking. O.J. Mayo went into the game averaging 22 points and 56.8% from downtown. Mayo went 0-5 from beyond the arc and only managed to put together 13 points so there's that. While the Mavericks had put up a respectable start to the season all things considered, it's clear that this team needs Dirk Nowitzki to have any chance at success this season. Rick Carlisle and the Mavs are doing all they can to hold the ship together, even starting the game with Brandan Wright at center, then switching gears and going back to Chris Kaman in the 2nd half, but eventually all the patches and plugs in the boat will be overcome by water. They may be bailing buckets of water out when it's all said and done.
Meanwhile, the Lakers armada has taken hit after hit to start the season, but is sailing on calm waters yet again. The first fire under Mike D'Antoni has been put out as they crashed directly through the Mavericks' tug boat. A few days of rest and working on the X's and O's before two home games to end the month of November should help the Lakers find some consistency in a great overall effort. Full recap in the morning, and one little observation from Mike Trudell on the way out.
Be sure to check Mavs Moneyball, which will certainly have a scathing review of this game.
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