Much to the surprise of many the shorthanded Mavericks handed the new-look Lakers a convincing loss Tuesday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Personally, I was not surprised the Mavs were competitve; the Lakers had a horrible preseason and while the Mavs certainly had some struggles they had numerous bright spots and happen to have a few key elements that are exactly the right thing to compete with this Lakers team. The Mavs led by a substantial margin most of the fourth quarter and ended up with a 99-91 victory on the Lakers’ home court.
The Lakers had solid performances from Pau Gasol (23 points, 10 rebounds) and Dwight Howard (19, 10) but most of the rest of the team struggled. While they shot a respectable 49.4% from the field, the 23.1% from 3-point range and horrific 38.7% from the line were fatal. 14 turnovers didn’t help and much of that was the Mavs pesky defense.
Darren Collison was the game changer, showing his speed and more. It was the perfect solution for a Lakers team that may be lacking in speed and isn’t together yet. For those who were worried about losing Jason Kidd (and there’s a lot that J Kidd brings to the table), Collsion had 16 points midway through the third quarter and Kidd’s season high last year was 15. Collison finished with 17 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds and 3 steals…not too shabby.
Brandan Wright got the start over Eddy Curry and had perhaps his best game as a Maverick, scoring 14 points on 5-5 shooting to go with 5 rebounds and 3 blocked shots.
Shawn Marion had another game that has become so typical for him – 11 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and a block, along with the defensive presence that doesn’t show up in the box score.
There were 6 Mavericks in double figures and the Mavericks shot 47.4%, much better than they have been.
The Meh: (formerly the bad – I figured we don’t need bad AND ugly)
Elton Brand didn’t shoot well but still managed 8 points and 11 rebounds and played tough defense on Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. Brand’s jumper hasn’t been falling so far but that should change.
Vince Carter missed a dunk near the end of the game and all four of his 3-point attempts but still managed to hit double figures for the 7th time in 6 games.
Eddy Curry once again gave a solid contribution on the offensive end with 7 points and 4 rebounds in only 17 minutes but he showed some of his weakness on the defensive end. Continued work with Rick Carlisle as well as elite defenders such as Marion and Brand should help.
O. J. Mayo scored 12 points but continued to shoot poorly, making only 4 of 13 shots. He played aggressive defense and had a good all-around effort but if he doesn’t start hitting a higher percentage it’s going to hurt the team when they aren’t firing on all cylinders.
Some will argue that Curry’s defense should be here but he makes no secret of his need to improve here and it’s clear he is trying.
All-in-all the Mavericks played great basketball as a team and there’s nothing much to criticize.
There’s a lot I could say about the Lakers and for the most part I already have. They WILL get better but they showed they are vulnerable for many of the reasons I mentioned previously, although Jordan Hill was their best bench player Tuesday night and he is a more than capable backup for Howard and Gasol. He played great against the Thunder in the playoffs last year and I was kinda hoping the Mavs might sign him as a free agent but the Lakers did the smart thing.
For the Mavs, this was an awakening. The promise of Collison was in full view and the only thing left for him is to step up in the half court game, which will come with time. If the style of attack keeps opponents on their heels it’s a beautiful thing. Overall a confidence builder with the entire team playing well individually and as a group. This group showed that they can play and when Chris Kaman returns Saturday they’ll be all the better for it.
The Mavericks play-back-to-back with a game against the Jazz in Salt Lake City, 8:00 CDT Wednesday night.