Last night was the most bizarre Lakers game all season but it ended the way so many have this year - with a win and a clutch shot by Kobe Bryant. On Wednesday the Lakers beat the Mavericks 100-95 to snap a four-game road losing streak.
Bryant came into the game with back problems that caused him to sit out the fourth quarter on Tuesday against the Spurs. Phil Jackson said Bryant would play as long as he wasn't a detriment to the team. Bryant wasn't a detriment but he was nearly non-existent. He didn't take a shot until just over one minute remaining in the first quarter and took just 11 shots in the game. Bryant almost never looked to get his shot nor did he drive to the basket much. He basically stood around the perimeter and deferred to his teammates. Yet somehow this worked really well.
This was a total team effort shown by the balanced scoring effort. Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum, Jordan Farmar, and Bryant all scored in double figures. Bynum led the way early as he went six for six in the first half for 15 points. He finished with 22 points on 11 shots and added 11 rebounds. He keeps gaining confidence while Pau Gasol remains out of the lineup. The last time the Lakers played the Mavericks, Bynum also dominated but Erick Dampier was out that game. I thought Dampier would make a difference but he was no match for Bynum. He was able to get great position and his moves were too quick for Dampier to defend.
It was great to see the Lakers able to win a game like this without
much offense from Bryant but it was his shot down the stretch that gave
the Lakers the lead for good. It was a highly entertaining finish in
which the Lakers blew an eight-point lead they held with just 2:45
remaining. The run to get back in it for the Mavs included a blown
layup by Shannon Brown, an ill-advised isolation for Farmar (I'm
doubting Phil drew that one up), and a couple threes by Jason Terry and
Dirk Nowitzki. But with 28 seconds left, Bryant hit an 18-footer to
give the Lakers a two-point lead. On the other end, the Mavericks got
it into Dampier who Kobe wisely hacked and sent to the line where
he missed both free throws. Bynum hit one of two free throws and Mavs got one last chance to tie it but Josh Howard missed the three-pointer with seven seconds left to seal it.
This was the first time in awhile the Lakers played like a team. They didn't get a ton of point production from their bench but they played a pivotal role and didn't blow it like they have in the past. I think I underestimated how much this team missed Luke Walton. His passing ability really helps the second unit.
Things just went from near-panic mode to a sense of calm. They were able to win a game without relying on Bryant, the bench played better, Artest finally looked like he's recovered from his concussion, Bynum is getting better every game, and Gasol is expected to be back Friday when they host the Clippers. Maybe the Lakers have weathered this mini-storm. We will see as they have two home games before embarking on an eight-game east coast road trip.
Game Notes: Dirk Nowitzki reached 20,000 points for his career. Artest's 16 points was the most he's had in over a month - and he did it on just five field goal attempts.