Dallas Mavericks vs. L.A. Lakers: Postgame Grades and Analysis for L.A.
While the Mavericks pulled within single digits a time or two in the fourth quarter, the result was never much in doubt.
The Lakers were led primarily by Kobe Bryant, who grabbed a triple-double with 23 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists, four steals and two blocks in 47 minutes of action.
Even more impressive, though, was the bench production the Lakers got from Earl Clark. He got his 11th double-double of the season, with 17 points, 12 rebounds and an impressive five blocks.
Once the four-minute mark rolled around, the Mavericks decided to adopt the hack-a-Howard, even though the team was down 15 points.
Howard answered the call, hitting five straight free throws in the fourth and ultimately ending the night with 24 points and 12 rebounds.
It wasn't pretty at times for the Lake Show, but all that matters is that they got the win, putting them three games above .500 and half a game behind the Utah Jazz for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.
Point Guard: Steve Blake
Say what you will about Steve Blake, but there is just no debating the fact that he hustles more than 99.9 percent of NBA players every single minute he's in the game.
He had a very efficient game, ending with 11 points on 50 percent shooting from the floor. But that doesn't mean his impact was only felt on the offensive side of the ball.
His aggressiveness on defense forced the Mavs into a number of rushed and/or low-percentage shots. And the way he protected the ball on offense led the Lakers to an early first-half lead they never looked back from.
Blake's stat line of 11 points and five rebounds in 38 minutes isn't exceptional, but sometimes it's the intangibles that mean the most.
Overall Grade: B
Shooting Guard: Jodie Meeks
It's encouraging to see Jodie Meeks playing intelligently and efficiently, instead of just jacking up shots whenever he touches the ball. Well, at least it was in the first half.
Everything changed for Meeks in the second half, when he reverted to his old ways. He ended the night with just eight points on an abysmal 2-of-9 from the floor, which is unfortunately becoming the norm for the guard.
Luckily, he somewhat compensated with six rebounds and three assists.
The Lakers need more efficiency though if they are going to make a push into the playoffs, and especially if they plan on making it out of the first round.
Overall Grade: C-
Shooting Guard/Small Forward: Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant could've had at least a double-double in the first half if his teammates had done their part in knocking down more shots.
Even so, Kobe ended the first half with 15 points, seven assists and five rebounds. It's clear that he channeled his inner Steve Nash, as hamstring issues forced the veteran point guard out.
Kobe picked up his double-double with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, and ended the game with another triple double, with 23 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists, four steals and two blocks. Even at 34 years old, Kobe continues to prove he's still got it and can still do anything on the floor. What's more, Kobe played a full 47 minutes and didn't even appear winded.
Most impressive, though, was the congratulations he gave Shaq for O'Neal's halftime ceremony.
To hear him say "you deserved it" was a pretty touching moment for everyone, even if you aren't the biggest Black Mamba fan.
Overall Grade: A
Power Forward: Pau Gasol
Pau Gasol's shot wasn't exactly falling early on, as he made just one field goal in three shot attempts in the first half. He did, however, end the first half with four assists, which was second only to Kobe's seven in the first two quarters.
It was an encouraging sign. His role is to be what the Lakers need him to be—and that changes each and every game. Tuesday night, the Lakers needed him to be opportunistic and smart with the ball, and he did just that.
He facilitated in the first half and picked up the offensive production in the second half, ending the night with 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting.
As the Mavericks were starting to pull back into this one in the fourth, it seemed like Gasol had his hand in all of the Lakers' pivotal possessions. Gasol was near a triple-double himself, ending the night with 14 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Definitely encouraging to see.
Overall Grade: B
Center: Dwight Howard
Amidst all the night's extra-curricular activities in the name of Shaq, Dwight Howard put on a solid performance.
It was good enough to have TNT announcers Reggie Miller, Chris Webber and Kevin Harlan talking about whether Howard too will have his jersey hanging from the Staples Center rafters one day.
With 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting and six rebounds in the first half, it was clear from the start that Howard came ready to play. Unfortunately, Howard didn't have a major effect on the game in the second half until the Mavericks decided to foul him for a solid two minutes as the game neared the four-minute mark in the fourth.
Most surprisingly, Howard knocked down a majority of his free throws down the stretch (though just 10-of-20 for the contest) to keep Dallas at bay. Howard ended the night with 24 points and 12 rebounds.
Howard's free-throw shooting remains a very big concern for the team at this juncture of the season. Fifty percent from the line isn't an especially awful performance for Howard, however, demonstrating just how dire the situation is for Coach D'Antoni and company.
Overall Grade: B
Sixth Man: Antawn Jamison
Whether it was his wrist or something else, Antawn Jamison wasn't himself Tuesday night.
In the first half he shot 0-of-4 from the floor and picked up absolutely zero stats in the eight minutes he was on the floor.
It took Jamison until well into the third quarter to get his first bucket of the contest and simply could not get it going. He ended the night with just four points on 2-of-7 shooting.
Overall Grade: D+
Antawn Jamison was a shell of himself, and that would've had a larger impact if Earl Clark didn't play like his future depended on it.
In the first half alone Clark lit up the scoreboard for 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the floor. He also grabbed eight rebounds and blocked three shots.
The Lake Show went just two deep, with Jamison and Clark getting the only minutes coming off the bench.
Even without significant depth, the Lakers got what they needed from their second unit, mainly because Clark decided to show up for the first time in quite awhile.
It was the first time since March 17 that Clark went over double digits.He also grabbed his first double double since March 5, ending the night with 17 points and 12 rebounds.
Clark's reemergence couldn't have come at a better time, as the Lakers need all of his 17 points to dominate the Mavericks early on and keep them at bay throughout.
Overall Grade: B+