This “Player Haters Ball” Lakers team has a lot of chances to play the spoiler coming up, with six of their last seven games against Western Conference playoff teams. Tonight, they played the Mavericks, who were desperate to keep up with Phoenix and Memphis as the three battle for the final two playoff spots. Despite a great game from Dirk Nowitzki and Brandon Wright making all 10 of his shots, the Lakers were competitive for most of the contest before the Mavericks were finally able to pull away for good in the 4th.
At this point in the season, there are a lot of moving parts on both ends of the Western Conference. After a brutal ten game stretch that saw the Mavs called into four OT games, Cuban’s club came into LA needing a few wins. They took care of business against the red-hot Clippers last night and their victory tonight pushed them to 7th in the West, tied in the loss column with Phoenix and Memphis. On the other hand, the Lakers loss / Utah win tonight put Utah just 1 game behind the Lakers for the 5th position in the lottery. It’s starting to look like the Lakers-Jazz game on April 14 will have huge implications for lottery positioning.
It was fitting that former teammates and close friends Nash and Nowitzki were both chasing history this evening. Dirk was Mr. Reliable again tonight, chipping in 27 on 11/14 shooting to go along with 9 boards and 5 assists. In the process, Nowitzki passed Dominique Wilkins and ended the night at #11 on the NBA’s all-time scoring board. Nash had 7 dimes in 18 minutes and ended the contest just 5 assists from passing Marc Jackson for #3 all-time in assists. He may not get that chance, as Nash also told the media that this might be his last game of the season if Jordan Farmar comes back on Tuesday.
The Lakers put forth solid effort against the Mavericks, but they were ultimately outclassed by a more talented team. For the Lakers to win a game like this, they need to take care of the ball and hit their outside shots. They did neither, turning the ball over 15 times and shooting 25% from deep on 28 attempts. It didn’t help that they got soundly beaten on the boards, losing the battle on the glass 52-38 and allowing over 60 points in the paint. On an individual level, only a few Lakers really played well tonight. Jordan Hill turned in another double-double with 14 points and 10 boards and Jodie Meeks had 25 points on 10/17 shooting.
The Mavericks prevailed, but they didn’t consistently show the determination it takes to beat this frisky Lakers team. After racing out to a 21-11 lead in the first, they let the Lakers back in the game and the Purple and Gold were up 54-52 at half. The Mavs had plenty in the tank for the second half, slowly taking control and putting the game on ice with a 9-0 run to start the 4th. At that point, the Lakers were down 78-91 and never threatened again. Dirk had plenty of help from his teammates and the Mavericks shot 48% for the game. Brandon Wright had 23 points on his perfect shooting night while Monta Ellis struggled from the field but had 9 dimes as he looked to set up his teammates.
Although it was great to have Nash back, Gasol and Kaman sat again tonight and Xavier was shut down for the rest of the season. This Lakers team still has no quit in them, but the season is starting to take its toll. With their upcoming schedule against a murderer’s row of playoff teams, the Lakers may not win again this season. D’Antoni is fighting for the right to coach this team again next year, but it will be interesting to see if he can continue to keep his team engaged as there is less and less to play for. Lakers fans, there are only six more games to go.