I must say that I was really looking forward to this game. This was going to be a true test for the Dallas Mavericks, an opportunity to realistically gauge the team’s chances of surviving in the Western Conference playoffs. I was hoping that, perhaps the reason the Mavs had looked somewhat sloppy against the little sisters of the NBA, was because they were bored. This is a veteran team, consisting of two future Hall of Famers, that want a championship ring badly.
So facing the two-time defending World Champs, on their homecourt, should provide some insight into what to expect when the second season begins. And after the first quarter, I was very optimistic. Both teams were scoring almost at will in a very entertaining 28-26 first quarter. Yes, the Lakers were on top, but this start was a great deal better than the previous five games or so. The Mavs were taking care of the basketball, fighting for rebounds, and knocking down big shots. Jason Kidd had two three pointers in the first quarter. There have been entire games Kidd has not scored that much.
The team was showing signs of life and offering evidence that perhaps my “we are bored with the regular season” theory was not far from the truth. Then the second quarter began. The Mavs began to revert back to their sloppy play just a little bit. They had stretches where they could not keep their hands on the ball, literally handing the ball to the Lakers. Bynum began to dominate in the paint, a trend that would become worse. But whenever the Lakers threatened to pull away, the Mavs would respond with a three pointer or a couple of quick scores to pull close once again. The Mavs were down 54-51 at the half. I was hopeful still.
The team had a few lapses, but they did not let the game get away and always seemed to come fighting back. Persistence. Perhaps Rick Carlisle’s preaching was bearing some fruit. As the teams headed into the locker room, I dared to think that the Mavs might just pull off a huge, stunning victory. The Mavs had been saving their best basketball for the second half of games. They had played the Lakers almost to a draw in the first half, what reason was there to think they would not follow that pattern tonight?
Unfortunately, the Mavs never came out of the locker room. The Lakers absolutely destroyed the Mavs in every way imaginable in the second half. There was one stretch where Lamar Odom outscored the Mavs 11-0 by himself! The team’s offense regressed and played uninspired, sluggish basketball. The strategy was to get the ball to Dirk and see what happens. Not a good strategy against a team with the size of the Lakers. Nowitzki played valiantly, scoring 27 points and grabbing 13 boards, but he had no help.
Jason Terry went 2-9 for 5 points. Peja Stojakovic had 13 points and J.J. Barea chipped in 10. No one else had double digits in points. Jason Kidd led the team with 6 assists while Tyson Chandler added 10 boards. When the final horn sounded the score was an nightmarish 110-82 loss, the worst defeat of the season for Dallas.
Things got ugly in a different way in the fourth quarter, with Jason Terry pushing Steve Blake of the Lakers after a hard foul. Tempers flared and JET and Brendan Haywood would be ejected, although I am still not sure what Haywood did to deserve getting tossed. There would be a total of five ejections before the game mercifully came to an end. All in all, this was a forgettable, disappointing performance for the Mavs. The second seed is all but out of reach now. Assuming that the Mavs get past the first round, a definite question now, the Lakers or Spurs will presumably be waiting.
The Mavericks are off today. They will try to rebound from this loss at Golden State on Saturday night. With nothing really to be gained now, Rick Carlisle needs to rest Nowitzki and Kidd. Their minutes need to be kept low if they are going to be rested enough for a long run in the playoffs. Give Roddy Beaubois and J.J. Barea more minutes and let them gain some confidence. Maybe let DeShawn Stevenson get some of the rust off as well. It will be interesting to see how the Mavs respond to this whipping by the Lakers. Here is hoping that they continue to show some persistence and take their frustrations out on the Warriors.