L.A. Lakers vs. Dallas Mavericks: Championship Flame Comes Out

John CarterContributor IIIApril 1, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 31:  Ron Artest #15 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates his basket and a foul with Shannon Brown #12, Kobe Bryant #24 and Lamar Odom #7 during a 110-82 win over the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center on March 31, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Three of the renegades were ejected last night during a physical battle with the Dallas Mavericks, in which the L.A. Lakers emerged victorious, 110-82.

Shannon Brown, Matt Barnes and Steve Blake were all involved in scuffles with frustrated Maverick players last night and were all ejected. Overall, five players were ejected from the Staples Center last night.

I loved the bench last night.

Sure, they only scored 25 points last night, but the flare they showed excited me. It was pleasing to see Matt Barnes and Steve Blake get down for a loose ball, and even put a "WWF Chokehold" on Barea, as Reggie Miller stated.

After a flagrant foul by a frustrated Jason Terry—who pushed Blake down to the ground—emotions were set. Steve Blake confronted Terry and Barnes shoved Terry away. Haywood got into a shoving match with Barnes, while Blake and Terry went at it. 

Men after men tried to hold Barnes down—even Dallas Mavericks assistant coach Terry Stotts. Unfortunately for Stotts, he was pushed down by an angry Matt Barnes into the bench. All four players were handed early showers for the night. Shannon Brown took offense to a hard foul by Brian Cardinal on Pau Gasol and pushed the forward, resulting in another ejection.

"This is a family here," Barnes said. "So if someone comes and hits your brother, pushes your brother, then you definitely have their back. And that's the case here."

This is the heart that wins playoff games. The camaraderie of the Lakers has finally shown. They showed that when push comes to shove, they're willing to thrust. The physicality in Los Angeles has sure grown, with players like Barnes and Blake never afraid to get dirty and physical. The tough-minded Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Barnes and Blake are all people who have no backdown in them.

The Lakers are in good shape.

Lamar Odom showcased a brilliant game with 16 points on 6-10 shooting, 11 rebounds, three assists and one steal off the bench. He executed a solo 11-0 run late in the third quarter that opened up the 20-point deficit for the Dallas Mavericks.

He drilled a three-pointer at the end of the third to deepen the cut, 82-70. He drilled another one at the start of the fourth to further deepen the cut, 85-70, and then hit another three to permanently send Dallas packing, 88-70. He later scored a layup to add to the lead, 90-70.

Odom proved that the Sixth Man of the Year award is truly his.

Andrew Bynum played with supreme dominance in the paint. Dirk and Chandler weren't able to outmuscle the young center who tallied 18 points on 6-9 shooting, 13 rebounds, three assists and two rejections. Bynum was visibly animated throughout the whole game, working for every rebound that went off the rim. The hunger and drive the young kid showed was exciting.

One especially sweet move was when he ate the offensive rebound from a missed Blake three. He muscled through Nowitzki, dunked a monster and roared at Bryant, who roared back. Bynum was a man among boys last night.

Kobe Bryant showed the world again that he is the best closer in the game. Early in the night, Bryant had two back-to-back amazing defensive plays, leading to an Artest three and a Pau lay up. He sunk 28 points on 8-21 shooting, with five rebounds, four assists and two steals.

Late in the fourth when the Mavericks threatened to come back, Bryant led a scoring run by the Lakers, including two sweet and-ones on Jason Kidd. After the game, Bryant laughed off Jason Terry's comments stating that Bryant couldn't keep up with the Dallas guards. "So much for his career after basketball being an analyst," jabbed Bryant.

The best fact about this game was the fan and player atmosphere. The Staples Center's aroma was filled with sweat and intensity. The air was filled with "Game 7" intensity, as broadcasters said.

The Los Angeles Lakers were energized. It wasn't common to see Bynum growling. It wasn't common for the whole Lakers team to jump up and cheer. It wasn't common to see 18,997 Lakers fans rabid in the Staples Center. The game was stopped twice due to energized fans running towards the court.

It was just refreshing to see Los Angeles fans as loud and wild as they were last night. It was great to see the Lakers fired up and ready for the playoffs. This game exposed a whole lot.

The Western Conference better prepare for the Lakers.