The Los Angeles Lakers came into tonight’s game versus the Dallas Mavericks on a two-game losing streak and both of their losses came to teams fighting for a playoff spot. The Lakers held leads against the Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets, but they let the advantages slip in both games.
The Lakers beat the Dallas Mavericks in their previous two meetings and it was clear that memories of the sweep in the 2011 playoffs hurt Los Angeles. The Lakers knocked off the Mavs in the first meeting thanks to a Derek Fisher three and their previous win resulted from a solid overall team outing.
The Lakers have not been very consistent on the road this season and they needed a win over the Mavericks and former team member Lamar Odom to boost their confidence.
Kobe Bryant received a lot of backlash after his poor shooting performances in the Lakers’ two-game slide, and he opened the game by shooting one-of-two. The Lakers were not going to the big men down low and the majority of their attempts to open the game came from the perimeter. Both teams were going back-and-forth and neither of the offenses were running with any flow. At the 9:00 mark of the period, the score was tied at four.
The Lakers were not feeding the ball to their big men, but the Mavericks were, and Ian Mahinmi and Dirk Nowitzki were the centerpieces to the team’s offense. The Lakers, on the other other hand, were relying on Kobe Bryant to get the offense going and the frontcourt was not very involved on that end of the floor. The Lakers were not looking very comfortable with the ball in their hands and the Mavericks were in control of the momentum. With 6:12 left to play in the quarter, Dallas held a six point lead, 14-8.
The Lakers began to move the ball and it was not sticky in one player’s hands. Instead of Kobe Bryant running isolation plays, he was dishing to ball to cutters and guys on the wing which helped the team cut into to the lead. Shortly after Ramon Sessions subbed into the game, he drained a three and brought the Lakers within three, 18-15. However, Jason Kidd answered back with one of his own and the Mavs brought their lead back to six, 21-15, with 3:08 left in the quarter.
Los Angeles ended the quarter very well and Sessions had the offense running smoothly. He was finding teammates for open baskets and the great ball movement resulted in easy points for the Lakers. Sessions and Gasol were developing great chemistry on the court and that helped Los Angeles cut the deficit down to two, 29-27, after 12 minutes. Kobe was shooting 4-7 from the field for 10 points and Sessions added in five points and four assists.
The Lakers’ second unit started off the second quarter and they continued with the solid ball movement. With Kobe Bryant on the bench, Sessions was able to dominate the ball and that resulted in a fairly balanced offensive attack. Andrew Bynum also got more touches than in the first quarter and the Lakers eventually tied the game at 34 with 8:50 left in the half.
Los Angeles also stepped up on the defensive end and was forcing the Mavericks to take tough perimeter jump shots. Even with Gasol and Bryant on the bench for the rest, the reserves were clicking on all cylinders and Sessions and Bynum were working well together. The offense was finally taking advantage of Bynum’s length and Los Angeles went on to open up a 38-34 lead with 6:58 left to play in the quarter.
Once Kobe Bryant was reinserted back into the game, the Lakers kept their foot on the gas pedal and Bryant was working within the offense. The Lakers were in control of the game and they were dictating the speed of the game. The ball was working itself from the paint and that resulted in either open shots for the big men or for the guards on the perimeter. With 3:40 left in the half, the Lakers were leading the Mavericks by ten, 48-38.
Los Angeles was a completely different team with Sessions on the court and he was constantly finding teammates for open shots. The difference between the Lakers with Sessions on the floor than with Blake running the offense was night and day. The players seemed more energized and it was evident that the coaching staff needed to give him more minutes. Not only was the point guard dishing the ball well, he was hitting down shots and most importantly, the three-point shot.
After 24 minutes of play, Los Angeles was ahead 57-44 after a 30-point second quarter. Bryant had 15 points, Gasol put in 12 and Session put in 12 points, dished out seven assists and had a plus/minus of +21.
The Mavericks began the quarter on a 5-0 run and the Lakers were once again relying on their perimeter shots. Steve Blake continued to struggle with his jumper and the team was not playing at the same level as they were with Sessions. Nowitzki hit two consecutive three point shots for the Mavs and that helped them cut the deficit to 59-52 with 9:27 left to play in the third.
The Lakers answered back strong and kept a nice cushion. With Nowitzki hitting his shots, it seemed as though the Mavs would make a push for the lead, but the Lakers made baskets at crucial moments. Bryant was shooting better in the second half and Steve Blake was finally able to hit some shots and run the offense a little better. After an amazing three-point play by Kobe Bryant, the Lakers held a 69-55 lead with 6:38 remaining in the period.
Los Angeles kept the Mavericks away for the majority of the quarter and were not letting them put together a run. Whenever momentum was shifting Dallas’ way, Kobe Bryant answered with a jumper and killed any chance of a surge. The Lakers were once again in control of the game and were playing efficient on both ends of the court. At the 4:00 mark of the period, the Lakers held a 74-60 lead.
After 36 minutes of play, the Mavericks cut the lead down to eight, 80-72 after a nice push late in the period. The Mavericks chipped into the Lakers’ lead and got the majority of their buckets off turnovers. With only one quarter left to play, the Lakers needed to go back to their old ways to hold off the Mavs.
The Lakers had two starters on the court to begin the fourth quarter, but with Sessions running the point, the team did not lose a beat. He continued to pass the ball extremely well and his three-point shooting made him a very dangerous player. The Mavs had trouble guarding Sessions and couldn’t decide which defenders to throw at him. With 9:41 left to play in the game, the Lakers held a 85-75 advantage.
Los Angeles was also fortunate to have its big men controlling the paint, which allowed for a dynamic attack on the perimeter and the inside. Gasol was showing his versatility and was beating the Mavs with his jump-shot and ability to drive the lane for an easy bucket. With Kobe Bryant still on the bench, the coaching staff was pleased to know that the team was able to maintain its lead. At the 7:10 mark of the quarter, the Lakers were up 92-78.
In the latter half of the fourth quarter, Los Angeles executed tremendously well and Kobe Bryant closed out the game with his incredible offensive game. Bryant had struggled shooting ball in the past few games, but he constantly made clutch buckets for the team.
In addition to the impressive offensive outing, the Lakers were playing great defense and they forced to Mavs to bad possessions. Matt Barnes was doing everything right on the court and his biggest contribution came on defense were he blocked shots and disrupted shots.
As the final buzzer rang, the Lakers walked away with a win, 109-93, and snapped their two game losing streak. Kobe Bryant led the team with 30 points on 11-18 shooting, Pau Gasol put in 27 points and nine rebounds and Ramon Sessions had 17 points and nine assists. As a team, the Lakers shot 58 percent from the field and made a total of nine three-point shots.
Los Angeles will be back on the court Friday when they host the Blazers at 7:30 p.m. PST.