Preview and Chat: The Dallas Mavericks

Kurt —  January 18, 2007

First, let’s enjoy last night for another minute. This is what I’ve come to enjoy about this team: With the game still hanging in the balance late, and with the Lakers having the best go-to clutch player in basketball on their team, the Lakers got the ball to third-line center Ronny Turiaf. He turns and runs right at All-Defensive-Everything Tim Duncan and sinks an awkward little running bank shot over him. Game over. And nobody saw it coming — the Spurs did everything but pull guys out of the stands to be an extra body covering Kobe, but this Laker team has a bunch of confident guys willing to take the big shot.

Kobe is efficient (12 of 19, plus eight assists). The Lakers mostly played good defense and held the Spurs to 47.4% (eFG%) shooting, 27.3% from beyond the arc. The Lakers got good play from the bench again — Farmar was a team-high +13 and the Lakers big run to take the lead in the early fourth started with the subs on the bench. The Lakers — both teams really — showed what good passing looks like.

How can you not have fun watching this team?

First hand view. Regular commenter Cary D. braved the ice storm to get to the game last night, He emailed me some thoughts, which I’ll pass along.

The thing that stood out to me the most was the amount of Laker fans that were present, and LOUD! I couldn’t believe the chorus of boos that could be heard throughout the entire arena everytime Tim Duncan shot free throws, especially in the 4th quarter. The Spurs have such a home court advantage, and you can’t tell me those Spurs players couldn’t hear the Laker loyal last night.

Unfortunately, my girlfriend and I were high up in the “Gi-nose-bleed” section of the arena. But, being high up really lets you experience the game at a whole new level. It was easy to see the Spurs ball movement and the results they got when they ran their offense well. I just can’t believe they went away from their offense in the final 3 minutes, and they stopped using the pick-and-roll with dribble penetration by Tony Parker. Is it me, or does Tony Parker seem to be that guy who kills you in the first 40 minutes and then conveniently disappears in crunch time?

The triangle looked quite nice in key stretches of the game. Kobe was really a surgeon last night. My girl asked me why he took a few shots without moving the ball around first, but when you see the game from that level, you realize he knows EXACTLY the spots on the floor he is most comfortable shooting from. To score 34 points on 12-19 shooting and plenty of assists in the Spurs home arena shows how good this guy really is.

Another great moment you commented on, Turiaf’s bucket took the crowd’s collective soul out from under them. When they moved the ball to Turiaf I almost cringed with Duncan on him. The thing about Turiaf is that he has fundamentally-sound footwork which allowed him to beat Duncan to his spot for an easy lay-in. Killer bucket.

You can tell this is a Phil Jackson coached team because their footwork is really sound. Anyone who has read his books and know his background can see his influence on this team more so than his other Laker teams this decade.

The Laker fans and I were rejoicing in the tunnels, forming instant friendships at what we just saw (sorry to sound like Bill Walton).

One final thought from last night. This one via Bandwagon LA, which has the video evidence to back up something they noticed after Kobe’s third-quarter tomahawk dunk over Duncan:

if you watch the replay (after the 3rd Q graphic in the video), check out the dude on the end of the Spurs bench. As soon as Kobe finishes of the tomahawk facial, the guy looks like he’s about to get up and start celebrating but then realizes he’s on the Spurs and stops himself. But for one split second, he was a fan.

Cake Caper. I am just briefly violating my own rule about not commenting on off-the-court issues in this blog to pass along Dan Reines comment on the cake-throwing incident:

to be fair to kwame, the cake probably just slipped from his tiny granite hands…

Oh yea, that game tonight. As a reward for an exciting win, how about a flight in a storm to face one of the two hottest and best teams in basketball?

When the Lakers beat the Mavs a couple weeks ago they got great performances from Luke Walton (21 points on 8 of 14 shooting, plus six assists), Sasha Vujacic (4 o 5 from deep) and very solid roll-playing nights from Smush and Turiaf.

That night the Lakers also made Dirk inefficient, just 10 of 24 shooting (although he finished with 29 points and 13 boards). As a team the Mavs were held to 46.1% (eFG%) shooting.

With the second game of the back-to-back, the Lakers are going to need that kind of defensive performance again. Kobe is going to have to leave and not let the team think a split of the two-games in Texas was good enough. But others will have to step up again. How about Radmanovic, who seems be more and more comfortable in the offense and finding his space. (Really, his grown is worthy of its own post.)

Whatever happens, I bet it will be fun to watch. Just about everything with the team is.