The Los Angeles Lakers will live to see another day as they picked up a 101-81 victory over the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks kept creeping into the game, but eventually the door was slammed and Dallas took a huge loss.
Kobe Bryant played 47 minutes and 4 seconds of the game after missing just 23 seconds during their game against the Sacramento Kings on Saturday. With Steve Nash continuing to nurse his hip and hamstring the Lakers faced another shorthanded game, and their playoff livelihood on life support as they hit the final handful of games in their season, the purple and gold need every ounce of help they can get. As has always been the case, Bryant was ready and willing to pour every drop left.
And that's just to get to the playoffs.
Bryant wasn't especially efficient from the floor on the night as he shot only 8-for-18 by the end of the contest. The Mavericks played him aggressively, trapping him out of the pick and roll and forcing him into tough shots. He had his moments, he made his share of shots despite great defensive strategy, and ended the night right. Bryant picked up his tenth rebound to seal his triple-double and put up a beautiful hook shot to cap it off and send it home, ending with a triple double -- 23 points, 11 assists, and 11 rebounds.
On a night where Shaquille O'Neal had his jersey retired, Dwight Howard performed as Dwight Howard has since the All-Star break. No more, no less, no different. He notched another double-double grabbing 12 rebounds to go with his game-high 24 points. He played well defensively. He knocked down crucial free throws in the fourth quarter while Dallas moved to hack-a-Dwight. He did enough to hold the fort for the Lakers.
The Shaq jersey retirement went as expected. There's not much to say, there were Shaq mooning jokes, Shaq shouted "can you dig it" at least three times, and Phil Jackson turned Staples Center into a "we want Phil" rally. Just your average day in Los Angeles.
Earl Clark had a great game off the bench looking once again like the diamond in the rough that presented itself before the Lakers in their time of need. Clark's game that was, for a time, a refreshing injection into a lineup that needed something -- anything -- to help them through their injuries had been turned into an afterthought. Not Tuesday night, as his 17 points and 12 rebounds off the bench provided the extra push the Lakers needed to get over the hump.
The Mavericks pushed back against the Lakers but ultimately came up short. Their loss was a huge blow for their shot at the eighth seed, falling further behind both the Jazz and Lakers. Even if they tie with the Lakers for the eighth spot, the Lakers hold the tiebreaker.
Dirk Nowitzki had a rough night making only four of his 13 field goal attempts. Both Pau Gasol and Clark did a good job of making him work, though he was still able to knock down a few unbelievable "that's Dirk" shots. Chris Kaman had a team-high 14 points. The Mavericks struggled on the boards, being outrebounded 37-57 by Los Angeles.
With the Lakers having four players with double-doubles (and Bryant's triple-double) it was too much, and the small lead the purple and gold held over Dallas turned into a 20 point fissure that ended with Robert Sacre on the floor.
Los Angeles is now off until Friday when they host the Memphis Grizzlies. After Memphis they face the Los Angeles Clippers in an "away" game, which makes the next two games another important set before they play host to the New Orleans Hornets. There was talk of "must-win" earlier in the season, but every single game left of the seven the Lakers have are "must-wins" so long as the Jazz hold an equal record.
The Lakers won. How many more can they dig out in the final seven games?
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