In this Western Conference where every win is magnified and every loss can knock you out of the playoff picture, it was vital that the Los Angeles Lakers come back home after the loss in Portland by getting back on track in their minds.
Unfortunately they had to get themselves back into the winning groove against one of the top-flight teams in the West—the Dallas Mavericks.
But fortunately, the Lakers brought an "interesting" performance to battle the Mavericks.
It wasn’t a great shooting night for either team, as both teams tanked a lot of easy jumpers.
The Lakers main bane of existence was at the free throw line where a normally infallible Kobe came up shy a total of seven times.
Then there was Lamar Odom with his late game misses. Every miss can kill you, but when they came in bunches like they did against the Mavs today, it looked like it might be the inevitable thing that "comes back to bite you in the butt.”
Thankfully Kobe straightened his stuff out on the line and wound up sinking double digit’s worth in second half. But with the missed free throws came a batch full of missed lay-ups as well.
Uncharacteristic over-shooting by Pau Gasol, eyes off the rim lay-up misses by Lamar and Derek Fisher didn’t help the Lakers get any room against the Mavericks.
When it became an epidemic, you had to be a little worried that the Mavericks would simply use every one as an excuse to get into transition for easy buckets.
And that they did.
Luckily, the Lakers' transition defense, for the most part, was in tow. Though they did get beat back a couple times, one time for a big Jerry Stackhouse dunk, the Lakers did an overall good job making sure they sent back at least two lead people back to defense on every full and half-hearted full court push.
Aside from transition defense, there were some good defensive performances that kind of got lost in the shuffle due to the playoff excitement that was all around Staples Center.
The first half saw Lamar hold Dirk Nowitzki to a paltry five points. Watching Lamar off the ball on the defensive end was a welcome sight. There was physicality in Lamar’s play that kept Dirk from even getting close to any post spot he wanted to do. Lamar’s insistence on Dirk being shadowed even out to the perimeter for screens kept Dirk from getting into any rhythm. In fact, it kept him from even getting the ball for the good part of three quarters.
Lamar’s biggest problem came when he let a couple obviously questionable calls get to him.
Once he started playing tentative worrying about what the refs may call, his defense started to give two steps to Nowitzki’s driving.
When Dirk smelled that Odom was giving those couple of step Dirk found the room he needed to get back to the offensive game he can play. In turn, those same calls that got to Odom on the defensive end looked to take some concentration away from his offense.
Lamar lost sight of the rim when he was around it, and as free throw opportunities came his way, he looked tired at the line.
Lamar’s usual rebounding prowess was hampered a bit by the Mavericks sending two guys to every single rebound possibility.
When Lamar was in position he was getting absolutely crushed by center Erick Dampier and another on every attempt. All of that kept Lamar from putting up the numbers we’re getting used to seeing.
Another good defensive performance that got lost in the shuffle was guard Sasha Vujacic on Jason Kidd. In the first half both Fisher, and especially Jordan Farmar, were getting burned by Kidd in the post.
Once the second half rolled around and Sasha was moved over to Kidd to give him a different defensive look, the Lakers stuck with it.
Sasha did real well keeping Kidd to the mid-range at his deepest. There was only one probe allowed in the entire second half from Sasha, and that alone kept Kidd from getting to any spot to lure the Lakers defense into the switch they were easily pulling in the first half.