Rajon Rondo led the Dallas Mavericks into Staples Center tonight, and the potential Lakers offseason target stuffed the stat sheet as the Mavericks triumphed over the Lakers 120-106 in a defense optional contest that saw the scoreboard lit up like a pinball machine.
Rondo came out aggressive in a game at which nothing of consequence was at stake for the locked into the seventh playoff seed Dallas Mavericks. Rondo had 6 points in his first 6 minutes, looking noticeably focused on scoring in the early moments of the game. The Lakers trailed 33-27 after the first quarter, staying close to the Mavs in large part because of the lack of playing time for Dallas' starters as well as 2 early three pointers from Wesley Johnson, who scored 8 points to lead the Lakers scoring in the opening period.
The Mavericks, led by Raymond Felton somehow, used a 10-2 run midway through the second quarter to push their lead to 47-35. A little later, the Lakers answered with an 10-2 run of their own to pull the score to 51-47 on a Jordan Clarkson jumper. Then, because the Lakers injury problems can still somehow get worse, the red-hot Johnson (16 points with 4 three pointers) left early at the end of the second quarter after turning an ankle. The Lakers continued to battle though, and ended the half trailing 62-57.
The two teams were almost evenly matched in all statistical categories, but the Lakers (45.5%) shot worse than the Mavericks (50%), largely by virtue of not being able to go up against a Lakers' defense that allowed Dallas to score 32 points in the paint while only scoring 20 of their own. Rondo continued to attempt to assert himself, shooting 2 free throws in the first half, which may not sound like much, but is impressive when considering his season average per game is 0.8. He had also scored more than his season average (11 points in the half vs. 9.1 per game on the season), even sinking a corner three pointer towards the end of the second quarter.
With Johnson done for the night, Ryan Kelly was forced to start the second half at small forward, which went about as well as it has all season. Good thing he got so much practice at it this year! All jokes aside, the Lakers defense was a joke in the third quarter, as it has been all season when Kelly plays the wing. Moving Kelly (10 points on 2-10 shooting with 6 assists) up to the four upon the insertion of Jabari Brown (18 points, 2 assists, 2 rebounds) stopped the bleeding, with the Lakers less heralded rookie scoring 9 points in the quarter, but the Lakers still trailed 89-82 with one quarter left to play.
A Charlie Villanueva three pointer with about 7 minutes left gave the Mavericks a 104-90 lead which they would not look back from, and ultimately went on to win the game 120-106. Lakers fans would somewhat fittingly not get tacos on a night that gave the Lakers their worst home season ever (12-28), with their 28th loss in Staples surpassing last year's 14-27 showing.
Rajon Rondo finished his last in person free agency audition with an 11 point, 11 assist, and 8 rebound near triple double, but the Lakers were mostly done in by their defense, as Dallas (54.2%) outshot the Lakers (43.6%) by 10.6% from the field.
In the positive column for the Lakers,
Missouri's their starting backcourt scored 44 combined points in the game, with each continuing to play above expectations. Clarkson (26 points) was especially impressive, flashing some improved shooting ability on pull-up three pointers and finding open teammates to the tune of 6 assists that undersell the rookie's level of facilitation in the Lakers' offense tonight.
Fellow rookie Tarik Black pulled down a career high 19 rebounds, and even made some history while he was doing it, becoming the first Lakers rookie to pull down 18 or more caroms since the esteemed George Lynch in 1994.
The Lakers only have two games left in their season, but at least these rookies are giving fans hope that better days may be ahead. Just dance this season off