On Tuesday Kobe Bryant closed out the game against the Grizzlies by hitting a game-winning three-pointer. Last night against the Mavericks he wasn't able to make it two in a row. It was a playoff-like atmosphere in Dallas as the Mavericks have been riding high since the trade that netted them Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson. They had won four in a row prior to last night but were dealt a blow just hours before the game when Caron Butler was ruled out with a bad reaction to medication. Jay-Z performed last night...Coincidence? Maybe a late night out? But even without Butler the Mavericks slowed down Bryant and got huge games from Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry to put away the Lakers, 101-96.
The raucous crowd was in for a treat. There were 24 lead changes and eight ties in this game and neither team led by more than nine points the entire game.
Early on, Andrew Bynum asserted himself for the Lakers. He had his way with Brendan Haywood, hitting all four of his shots in the first quarter. But then Bynum pulled his regular disappearing act. Am I the only one who sees this trend? Bynum didn't score again until three minutes into the fourth quarter and had just three attempts in between those made baskets. This is an issue that must be addressed. At times he's the most dominant big man in the NBA and then he's just invisible. He has to be more assertive and demand the ball - whether from Phil Jackson or his teammates.
Despite Bynum handling Haywood in the early going, the new addition to the front line of the Mavs was fairly effective. He's a huge upgrade over Erik Dampier. He's much more athletic and a superb rebounder. Haywood finished with 11 points, 9 rebounds and 5 blocks.
The Mavericks were more physical and that's been the key to beating the Lakers all season. When the Lakers lose it's usually because they don't attack the basket on offense and are out-hustled to loose balls and rebounds. The Mavs got 13 offensive rebounds and had 19 second chance points.
They also did a great job on Kobe. Bryant missed his first five
shots, started hitting some in the middle, but was ineffective in the
fourth. Bryant entered the fourth much earlier than usual with Phil
Jackson not wanting the game to slip away. Bryant came into the game
just over two minutes into the fourth with the Lakers trailing 78-76.
But Shawn Marion really shut him down. Bryant hit two of six shots with
Marion draped all over him. He missed a three-pointer with 25 seconds
left that could've tied the game. It's possible fatigue set in after the previous night having been his first game back in nearly three weeks.
For the Mavs it was all about Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki. The two combined for 61 of the Mavs 101 points and scored 22 of their final 23 in the fourth. Sometimes players just get hot and there's not much you can do about it. That was the case with Dirk who was covered pretty well all night. Jason Terry's points were often the case of a mismatch. Derek Fisher had a tough time guarding him and the JET took full advantage.These teams don't play each other the rest of the regular season. They split the regular season two games a piece. If they do meet in the Finals the Lakers will have never played this new-look team at full strength.
This new Mavs team looks really strong. They are serious contenders in the West. A few years ago there was outrage (and still is) that the Grizzlies traded Pau Gasol for next to nothing. Where is the outrage for the Wizards trading Haywood and Butler for next to nothing? Both moves were to shed salary and Butler, like Gasol has been an All-Star. It's not quite as big of a trade as the Gasol trade was, but it's not too far off. Is it now just a better understanding of the trade system? It's now accepted to trade big names for nothing in order to free up cap space?