Preview and Chat: the Dallas Mavericks

Reed —  April 4, 2008

(I’m tied up at work today, so this will be brief. Fill in thoughts in the comments. –Reed)

Records: Lakers 51-24 (3 seed); Mavs 47-28 (7 seed)
Offensive Ratings: 114.2 (3rd); 112.8 (8th)
Defensive Ratings: 107.2 (6th); 106.9 (5th)
Projected Lineups: Lakers: Fisher, Kobe, Radmanovic, Odom, Gasol; Dallas: Kidd, Terry, Howard, Dirk, Dampier

Dallas Coming In: Dallas posted their win of the season last game, with a decisive, critical win over Golden State. The victory was huge on several fronts: the unexpected return of Dirk, gaining a game and the tiebreaker over Golden State, and — perhaps most importantly — the first victory over a winning team since the Kidd trade (they had previously gone 0-10). The Mavs now have a 2 game edge on the Warriors with the tiebreak, so their playoff standing looks much more secure than a few days ago. Dirk is still limited with the ankle and knee sprains, admitting that he’s mostly relegated to being a spot up shooter on offense and unable to run in transition.

This means more reliance on Josh Howard, who is on a tear, averaging 30.2 points over the last 5 games. Howard is probably the key matchup for the game, as he seriously exposed Radmanovic and Walton in the last matchup, constantly burning them with penetration in the first half. The Lakers might be wise to go to the Fisher/Sasha/Kobe lineup to better defend Kidd/Terry/Howard on the perimeter.

Most consider the Kidd deal a disaster, but the numbers only show them being mildly worse with him than Harris. With Kidd on the court, the Mavs offensive rating is 112.4 and the defense rating is 105.3. With Harris on the court, the Mavs had a 117.3 offensive rating and a 106.5 defensive rating. Surprisingly, Kidd has hurt the offense and helped the defense, but this actually makes sense given his inability to contribute in an isolation rich offense and the team’s inability to defend big guards with Terry and Harris out there together. The real problem with the trade lies in the other pieces lost in the deal — 2 draft picks and Diop, who was probably their best defensive player (the Mavs had a team leading 102.9 defensive rating with Diop on the court).

The local media has been all over the Mavs lately — questioning the Kidd deal, blasting Avery’s coaching, and constantly recalling the past two playoff collapses. Avery in particular is under serious scrutiny, with almost everyone calling for his head for refusing to stop micromanaging and just turn the offense over to Kidd. While this is probably heat of the moment overreaction, there is a clear tension between Avery’s desire to call plays and run isolation sets and Kidd’s increased effectiveness in transition and while freelancing. Something has to give, and I’m guessing it will ultimately not be the new $20 million point guard.

Lakers Coming In: Gasol came back and his ankle seems to have responded well. The second half of the Portland game was the first time in a while that the defense has looked sharp, it being only the third in fifteen games that they have held the opponent under 100 points. The Lakers are in a heated battle for the division and playoff seeding, so it is critical they win games like this at home, especially with Dirk hobbling. No one wants to drop to the 5 seed and face Utah in the first round. My keys to the game:

(1) Odom needs to attack Dirk on offense, as he has no chance staying with Lamar’s speed with his leg injuries;

(2) Defend the perimeter. Make Howard and Dirk take contested jump shots. Force the ball to Kidd late in the shot clock — make him score. This might mean less Radmanovic and more Sasha.

(3) Rebound. Two games ago, Dampier looked like Dwight Howard, going for 17 and 16 before fouling out. Gasol is still rusty, but he needs to do a better job of keeping a body on Damp and holding Dallas to one shot.

Your Thoughts:

Two great comments I saw recently:

Drrayeye on putting all our pieces together as they return from injuries:

The Zenmeister has fifteen “pieces,” but two of his biggest pieces, Pau and ‘Drew, have never played together at all. Two of his most dependable pieces, Kobe and Derek, have nagging injuries that will not go away during the playoffs. At least one of his pieces, Trevor, will not be making his return debut until the playoffs. We’ll have to make due with Ira, a wiley veteran stand-in. There may even be minor stand-in roles for Mbenga and the other Kobe. Only time will tell.

The Zenmeister needs to put Humpty back together again when Humpty was never together in the first place–and Phil does not have all the kings horses or men (though his backup support is pretty good). Zenman better understand the Japanese “just in time” approach to product delivery perfectly!

Nomuskles with a running recap of the Portland game.

Seeding Thoughts:

Open questions for the forum: Are we better off as the 3 seed playing Houston in the first round, but then facing San Antonio or New Orleans on the road in the second? Would a healthy Dallas be the scariest 7 or 8 seed in playoff history? Who is the one team you would absolutely want to see on the other side of the bracket?

–Reed

Reed

Posts

65 responses to Preview and Chat: the Dallas Mavericks

  1. The Dude Abides April 4, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    I think the Lakers are best off getting the #1 seed and playing Denver first round. Denver’s offense is too inconsistent to beat the Lakers in a seven-game series. I think the Lakers would be able to defeat Denver in four or five games. I think Utah and Phoenix will get the 4th and 5th seeds, with the Suns getting the home court. I think that series will go seven, giving whoever is top seed plenty of rest and practice time after the first round if it beats Denver in four or five games. Therefore, the Lakers need to win out, and hope the Hornets lose one additional game besides their matchup with us.

  2. The Lakers least favorable matchup (ranked from top to bottom):

    1. Spurs — enough said;
    2. Suns — Amare + Shaq vs Pau+ Lamar + gimpy Bynum …. we lose to any team this year except to Phoenix (we won’t stop hearing it from from Suns fans and Shaq that we lost for the 3rd straight year to them)
    3. Warriors (see ’07 playoffs)
    4. Hornets — Lakers (or any team for that matter) can’t slow down CP3

    Otherwise, I think we can beat the Mavs, Jazz or Nuggets…. oops I almost forgot the Rockets, yup we can beat them too!!!

  3. A Denver/Lakers series would be hella fun to watch. I’m guessing the over/under on combined points would be 250+ each game….

  4. NOTES

    Derek Fisher and Luke Walton were given Thursday off. …

    Jackson on Fisher, who is three games into playing with a partially torn tendon in his right foot, “He played well in the second half last night. The first half I think he still is kind of tentative. Maybe he wasn’t full out.” …

    Andrew Bynum continued to run and do on-court activity.

  5. I hope that spurs #1, hornets #2, and lakers stay at #3, so lakers opponents:

    1st round: vs rockets
    2nd round: vs winner of hornets and mavericks/nuggets
    3rd round: spurs or utah or suns
    4th round: we will talk about it later:)

  6. This LIttle Pinky April 4, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    I wouldn’t mind if the Lakers played the Warriors, now that Pau is back in the mix, and Bynum will be there as well. GSW could get maybe one game in that series.

    Spurs are the only team that makes me nervous. But I like the fear. It tells me I’m ready.

  7. Tonight we’ll see just how rejuvenated the Mavs truly are. My only fear is that Dallas so poorly handles Kobe, the Lakers might not get a good team effort.

  8. The team I most want in the other bracket is New Orleans – I really think they pose the biggest threat to us. #2 is, of course, San Antonio.

  9. I was wondering about the seeding myself earlier. Houston is probably the most favorable matchup, but if we fancy ourselves championship contenders should we be worried about finagling the best possible first round matchup for ourselves? Add to that the unpalatable prospect of going to San Antonio in the next round and I think the Lakers have to go for the 1 seed. Whether that’s in their power, we’ll see. The 3 seed won’t break my heart since champions also have to be able to win on the road.

    The best possible first round matchup for the Lakers would be Seattle. I feel confident about that.

  10. If we had a choice of playing Dallas as a 2 to 7 versus Houston as a 3 to 6 I’d much rather have the Dallas matchup. The key here, besides that we would have homecourt guarenteed for two rounds, is that I think we have more of a psychological edge against Dallas than Houston. Dallas we have beaten in a close game where Kidd choked on a FT at the end of the game. By contrast, I remember two highly contested comeback games where the Lakers fell just short against the Rockets. Even without Yao Houston has shown an ability to get stops at the end of games when they need them (Hello, win streak). I’m not sure Dallas can do that.

  11. Best Laker foe First Rd?
    Denver as they play no D,can’t guard Kobe when if game is is tight at end and are jump-shooters who will go cold. Did I mention horribly undisciplined?
    Dallas second best as they have no answer for Kobe,Lamar can defend Dirk and I would give a big edge to Gasol over Dampier.
    Houston would be a huge question mark,perhaps to be answered by one of the observers of European Basketball. How did Gasol match up w/Scola? If it’s even,then it comes down to Kobe’s will to win vs T-Mac’s setting up his teammates. La has more talent,Houston plays better as a team-much more mentally focused. Would be a heck of a series,and may be most likely chance.
    Best PlayOff scenario for Lakers. Hornets 1,Lakers 2,Spurs,Rockets/Jazz,Suns,Mavs,GS.
    NO sweeps(never getting tested or facing real PlayOff pressure),Lakers in 5,Spurs/Suns battle 7 draining Spurs,Rockets beat Jazz in 7(it’s my scenario :) ). Fresh Lakers w/bigs now game ready defeat tired Spurs,NO beats Houston in 6.
    Best guess,the two losses late will keep Laker from top 2 spots. While I think the Spurs should end up #1,I can easily see Pops resting players so long as he knows he’s got one of top 3 spots. My forecast:
    NO,SA,LA,Pho,Jazz,Hou,Mavs,Den.

  12. I’m interested to see how Kidd responds tonight. He probably had his worst game of the season last time he played us — leading to Tyronne Lue spearheading the second half failed comeback.

  13. Favorable seedings:

    1) Denver – I have yet to see Denver play a complete game against us. They seem to fall apart.

    2) Utah – Seems we have their number. Its personal too. Right Fisher?

    3) Dallas – We just frustrate Dallas. A healthy Laker team, yeah, very bad for Dallas.

    4) Golden State – They have yet to come out flat against the Lakers. Seems like they have those share of games. They are overdue.

    5) Phoenix – PJ knows the equation to beat Phoenix: Make their players beat you one-on-one.

    6) Houston – Somebody always steps up on Houston. Rafer, T-Mac, etc. It’s like the Lakers are never fully prepared for them. The only good thing the Lakers got going against Houston is that they are coached by Adelman. He doesn’t have a very good record against us in playoff series.

    7) New Orleans – CP3. The only thing we have going is that Peja never seems to perform with the same intensity during the post season. We do have to worry about a couple up and comers named West and Chandler though.

    8) San Antonio – Their big 3. Pops ability to resurrect his team in the locker room in the half. He is the best in the business at making midgame changes to improve his team’s 2nd half.

  14. Top of the second. Very, very fun game so far. Pau looks awesome.

  15. As always though, our defense is non-existent. I am really hoping this will change once Bynum comes back.

  16. Yes, the Lakers may very well spoil a near perfect offensive game from the starting unit by playing horrible defense.

  17. First game I watch in a week and this is a sad defensive effort. With 2:55 left in the first and Dallas has an offensive rating of 152 for the game so far. Also, Kobe leads the team in rebounds, which is not a good sign.

    Kobe’s getting doubled and he is passing out of it, Gasol looks good.

    Reed or someone who has seen more of Dallas, why so little Bass in the first half? Is he healthy?

  18. And, good to be back.

  19. Do anyone remember the last time we gave up less than 50 points in first half??

  20. It’s games like this that make me realize that Bynum is the most important big on the team. I love Pau, but we need a consistent defensive anchor, especially with all the transition running teams in the West.

  21. Welcome back, Kurt.

    I think our defense is just plain pathetic and even if Andrew returns full-100%, he’s not going to suddenly and dramatically change our defense from “downright pathetic” to “championship-worthy.” We have no commitment or effort to putting on a good defensive performance until a) we’re down in the 4th quarter with little time remaining or b) we wake up to see we’re down 25 to one of the worst teams in the NBA.
    Too many offensive rebounds for the opponent (once again) and just lack of leadership or unity on defense.
    But Pau looks pretty healthy and that is very encouraging to see.

    As for playoff matchups, I really would like to avoid the Hornets b/c Chris Paul is the MVP and will play like one. I’d kill to avoid the Spurs as well b/c they are just too disciplined and united.
    Meanwhile, I would also kill to play the Nuggets and the Jazz in the 1st round.

  22. Popeye Jones sighting.
    man…..he a couple branches of the ugly tree on the way down.

  23. vlade is killing us and luke got 3 fouls in under 2 minutes. Farmar, Sasha and Ronny have also given us squat. The Lamar, Kobe and Pau show won’t cut it.

  24. The Lamar, Kobe, Pau show cut it if the team plays defense!

  25. … Stop playing Radmanovich – if he is not shooting well he is absolutely worthless. Give Vujacic more run, put Kobe at 3, or play Turiaf. But how can we justify giving time to someone who doesn’t play defense, doesn’t rebound and doesn’t do anything but shoot outside?

    Looking forward to seeing the team at full strength. It will be nice to have options.

  26. Stop doubling Kidd on the block. Please. Make him try to score a few times. He has no desire to. No more open 3s.

  27. Lamar, I love you and I want to have your babies!!!
    Keep playing like this and we will NOT trade you, sir!!

  28. Wow. Odom is suddenly Magic Johnson.

  29. If Kobe is always this patient, and Lamar is always this involved, we cannot be stopped. How can you not love this brand of basketball – great spacing, nice passing, unselfish… Just beautiful to watch.

  30. KEEP ODOM.

    He’s going to be the X-Factor. Odom rips up Phoenix and Dallas.

  31. I proclaim Jon Barry the Laker anti-homer. His play-by-play and anti-Laker rhetoric disgusts me. If you listened to the low-brow commentating on ESPN tonight, you understand what I am talking about.

    But why does he harbor such anti-LA sentiments?

    Lets check NBA profiles: http://www.nba.com/playerfile/jon_barry/

    Big surprise, he had terrible, I mean career low stats for the Lakes in the 97-98 campaign and they dumped him. Keep sipping the haterade Jon, hope you enjoyed the game tonight. ;)

  32. I love Lamar Odom always have always will. He is by far the x-factor of this team.

    Odom is a beast when he wants to be and when they give him the ball. I love the fact that he steped up after the houston game and said “give me the damn ball” and since then he has proved that he can handle the pressure. Mitch would be an idiot to get rid of this guy, if Jerry is willing to pay for everyone I say keep them all, you hae 4 all stars on your team if you do.

  33. Sorry for the double-post Kurt, but this would be an interesting fact to bring to the attention of one Henry Abbott.

  34. Good question that popped into my head: was this win a result of Dallas’s ability to choke down the stretch, the Lakers suddenly active play in the 2nd half, or a combination of both?

    I’m going to chalk it up as a combo with more of it going to Dallas’s passive play. If this was any other team with a lead like this, they would not have been that passive.

    Either way, what a monster game from Odom. It seems like that hit upside the head really woke him up. And Kobe, taking only 14 shots? Efficient game for Kobe but a deadly combo between Gasol and Odom. That was just beautiful to watch.

  35. That, I believe, is what they call gutting it out. Fantastic. Nice to see the end of the regular season as the pre-playoffs instead of the tank-a-thon it so often is.

  36. I think this is a nationally televised game, so i wont be playing spoiler or anything. anyways…

    Only caught the 2nd half of this game, but i’d like to say that this game proves this laker team is ready for the playoff run this season. This was a game that dallas controlled from the onset, but our lakers battled back, grinded it out, especially on defense, and worked as a team to get this win… a big, big win!

    Special mention should go to LO for playing a superb game tonight. I feel this is the big advantage of the lakers going to the playoffs. Double Kobe, Pau or LO will kill you. Play straight up, pick your poison. Double pau at the post, sasha, fish and co. will drain threes all night. Great win tonight!

  37. I would also like to thank Avery for giving us the win by doubling Kobe 40+ feet away from the basket and creating 2 on 1 with Pau and LO v [insert Dallas player]

  38. Is it safe to breath? That may be the best team wide late game execution in a close game that I’ve seen this year. Kobe was taken out of the action with agressive doubles but everybody else stepped up, most notably odom and pau.

    -That was far and away the best, most dynamic 2 man game between a center and a power forward I’ve ever seen. Odom’s cutting since Pau has arrived has been everything Tex Wintter ever asked, while Pau’s passing looks Odom-rific.

    When we execute on both ends, calmly and with focus, I don’t believe anybody can beat us. The only problem is when we fail to do that, such as in the early 2nd quarter run. Vlad and Walton sucked tonight. Vlad especially. He was abused on D. But Sasha came up big for us when we were desperate (except for his characteristicly bad ball handling TO with 1:30 left…).

    Oh man. This is tense. It really does feel like the playoffs already. I’m going to go vomit now.

  39. Sorry for the double post but something else-

    How big was Howard’s T? What would have been a 3 point lead becomes a 4 point lead in the final minute.

    Just like Avery quoted Frank Sinatra: “Somethin’ Stupid”

  40. By the way, I’m still a little surprised people talk about trading Odom this offseason. I was surprised before this game. Yes, he could leave after next season, but he is a key part of this team trying to win a title in the next couple of years. It would take a Kwame-quality trade for me to be on board with that kind of move.

  41. I think the concern with Odom is not with his game, but his long-term future. I seem to remember reading that he was thinking about retiring after his contract ends, after everything he has gone through. As well as he played tonight, and as perfect he is for the team they have right now, if he is going to retire in another season or two they are better off getting another asset.

    If Lamar is committed to playing for another 3-4 years, he’s a great piece at SF/PF alongside Pau and Bynum.

  42. I understand the concern about Odom, but I think when your team is as close to a title this year and next as the Lakers are, you don’t just trade a key player for an asset, just to make sure you get something. I’d rather have him on a team that wins a title and let him walk than just trade him to get something back.

  43. Warren Wee Lim April 4, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    Great win! The Lakers season can be summarized in what transpired tonight. In the end, some gritty plays gave us the win. We have to beat the best in order to be the best. And we shall…

    This is my playoff bracket and I use relative reasoning in coming up with it.

    Scenario A – Lakers get the #1 seed.
    This of course will only happen if we win both San Antonio and New Orleans games. My book has us winning 57 games this year. That means winning 5 out of the remaining 6 games. (I’m kinda w/ Hollinger on this one)

    RD1
    1 Lakers vs 8 Nuggets – Lakers in 5
    4 Jazz vs 5 Suns – Suns in 6
    (over under will be 235)

    2 Hornets vs 7 Mavs – NOH in 7
    3 Spurs vs 6 Rockets – Spurs in 6

    RD2
    1 Lakers vs 5 Suns – Lakers in 6
    2 Hornets vs 3 Spurs – Spurs in 6

    RD3
    1 Lakers vs 3 Spurs – Lakers in 7

    ================================

    Scenario B – Lakers lose one or both of NOH and SA matchups. Get the #3 seed.

    If this happened, be ready to meet the Spurs in round 2.

    1 Hornets vs 8 Nuggets – Hornets in 6
    4 Jazz vs 5 Suns – Suns in 6

    2 Spurs vs 7 Mavs – Spurs in 6
    3 Lakers vs 6 Rockets – Lakers in 6

    I hate this bracket. Defensive teams are usually tough matchups for us, reserve them for the WCF.

    In the event GS makes the cut, Denver loses out.

    Give me the Suns, Jazz, Warriors, Nuggets and Mavs.
    Reserve me the Spurs, Rockets and Hornets for the WCF.

  44. 43- I agree with Kurt. Odom fills in too many gaps on this team. He is able to provide a lot of the things that Pau can’t do. With the pressure off him I expect him to continue to thrive. I don’t see us making any significant changes to our squad in the next 12 months. If Odom retires, after next year, shouldn’t we end up with cap room to sign a free agent?

    And it’s by no means certain that he does retire. He’s very emotional and says a lot of things that don’t pan out. Maybe he thrives so much that he is willing to take a paycut and stay with the team. You never know with him. But what I do know is that we are not going to be able to recoop the unique things he brings to this team through a trade.

  45. What is this about Odom retiring? Where did it say that?

  46. Lamar does bring some unique talent to this team, but…

    Are you all just looking at the game stats?

    Watching the 4th qtr I noticed three plays, practically in a row, where Lamar just got lost. Also you can pretty much count on him missing 1 of 2 freethrows when fouled. I want Lamar in the game, but I don’t want him handling the ball near the end – the long runs down the court result in turnovers more often than scores because he seems to make up his mind what he will do at about halfcourt. Also, he tries to pass while in the air and throws the ball away when the pressure builds up. I want him rebounding, playing defense, and taking passes from Kobe and Gasol that lead directly to scores. These are things he can do well.

    This was a great game for him and he also coughed it up toward the end.

  47. The Dude Abides April 4, 2008 at 11:48 pm

    I loved Phil’s decision to go with the small lineup down the stretch. Neither Luke nor Vlad was giving us anything tonight, and Sasha did a great job tiring out Kidd with full-court defense. Not to mention, he’s money from the FT line in the final minute.

  48. Warren Wee Lim April 5, 2008 at 12:14 am

    I agree dudea, I think Sasha is coming to his own and is fast becoming Phil’s best perimeter defender next to Kobe and Ariza. That said, I wonder if my 3-yr 10m offer would still stand for him? And for Ronny?

    I also agree with Kurt. Lamar does so many other things which would otherwise no two people can do simultaneously.

  49. Warren, I hope I can one day be as optimistic as you because I still don’t see the Lakers beating the Spurs in a playoff series this year no matter what happens, and that includes Bynum and even Ariza giving us heroic efforts.
    We need time to experience as a collective group the failures and hardships of the playoffs before we can truly contend. I hope the same can be said for Boston, but oh well, they play in the LEastern Conference.

  50. Warren Wee Lim April 5, 2008 at 1:18 am

    Chocomm, it might be a case of me being a little too optimistic of our chances but it might also be a case of you being just a little too pessimistic in reciprocation.

    The point I will try to contend is that we are basically the #1 team in the West. We have the highest winning margin among all West teams at +6.7 (well next to Utah at 7.1 but they are a fluke with all those home blowouts and road losses). We also own every 3-way tiebreaker that may arise since we own the West’s best record vs the West. The only team that is in danger of beating that mark is New Orleans… but then again we still have a game to play on the 11th and that game will tell us who we are.

    Then again, this still is without its 2 best defenders not named Kobe.

    The Spurs meanwhile are at their peak. The problem with being at your peak is that there is nowhere else to go but down. With their collective ages worth a primed dragon, the Spurs still is the team-to-beat but they are not invincible. Many teams have exploited the Spurs weakness this year. Its quite amazing what they have done in the past decade to earn them this respect but do not let that reputation fool you.

    I think the Spurs are a great franchise and a great team. They are fiscally sound in payroll and in team. They are almost the only team that plays basketball the right way (perhaps Detroit ranks here) thru its defense and they are one heckuva boring team to watch because of all the fundamentals. I have nothing but respect for their FO, coaching staff, franchise and team.

    But they are not invincible.

  51. 25,27 – I totally agree with the observation on vlad rad. the only reason they couldnt gain headway in the 3rd qtr was because of him. either howard blows by him, he loses him and everyone rotates and d breaks down, or he loses sight of him and he cuts for an easy basket. as much as you like his offense, luke walton would be a better choice at the 3, or against a small team, kobe at 3, and sasha at the 2. he should only be fielded in for a few stretches, or when someones grand mother is fielded in. he is the weak link on defense and it’s killing the team. how i wish trevor was here. Newble had a better outing than him in the 2.5mins he was fielded in

  52. Warren Wee Lim April 5, 2008 at 1:21 am

    Addendum:

    I think the only thing in the Lakers way of winning this year is themselves. They have to want it more than the SPurs, Mavs, Suns or Hornets.

    They can start showing it by playing defense.

  53. Renato Afonso April 5, 2008 at 4:47 am

    Seems Bynum will only be back for the playoffs and Ariza, well… Ariza is a question mark at this point.

    So, let’s assume that we will only get 10 mins per game of Bynum during the playoffs…

    I don’t like having to play on the road in SA for round 2. I don’t believe we beat this year with all the injuries we have. However, if we could get the #1 seed (or SA gets #1 and we #2) I believe we have a possibility of reaching the Finals without playing SA.

    The Suns and the Jazz are better suited to knock them out, and I honestly believe it will happen.

    Regarding the first round, I would like NOT to face GS. Remember what happened not long ago when we had those back-to-backs against them? The following games we were tired and out of sync. The offense wasn’t connecting and defense was non-existent. Sure we can beat them in 5 games, but at what cost? Dallas and Denver are more favorable matchups.

    Reed, Pau and Scola have grown a lot since they were younger, and I barely remember them playing against each other. Pau was already listed as future NBA material while Scola was still making his own name. Nevertheless, I remember Scola doing a good job on Pau and being very physical. Pau’s team was overall better, so… not much I can add. Maybe Xavier remembers something… he is from Barcelona I think

  54. Good win tonight, I’ve got the feeling that this is 100% coming purely down to the games vs NO and SA. I mean that may seem obvious but from here, the hornets have three tricky games left, Golden State, the Jazz and Us. Now unless they start dropping games, which would be a blessing, we’re going to have to beat them in that game for the top spot, then the Spurs to hold it til the end. We should win all the remaining games, but equally so should New Orleans.

    So yeah I see those two games being maybe bigger than the entire first round of playoff games, cause as Warren Wee Lim pointed out in #45, the nuggets are far easier prey than say the rockets. This is a huge, high pressure part of the season and great to watch.

    Let’s not forget also folks that our Laker’s this time last year were just about managing to wrap up the 7th spot with no chance of leading the division. Now we’re over 50 wins, with a legit shot at heading the West and well, a very very good shot at taking the division title (which may not sound much, but I love to see the Sun’s lose ANYTHING)

  55. 47. At one point after the death of his daughter, Odom said he might just retire after this contract was up. J.D. Hastings said it well, Odom says a lot of things based on emotion that are not necessarily how he feels 6 months later — maybe he is having so much fun as a Laker he stays on at a reduced rate. Not likely, but not impossible.

    By the way, JD: For the next few years the Lakers are way over the cap. If Odom retires most likely the Lakers would still have only their mid-level exception to spend on a free agent. With the team capable of winning a title you may get a quality veteran at the mid-level, but the Lakers will not be making any big free-agent signings in the near future.

  56. Great to win that game, but the defense this team has played the last 2 weeks makes me seriously concerned about how deep this team can go in the playoffs. The rotation in the 4th quarter was great, but if they think they can not play d for 3 quarters and win in the playoffs they are mistaken.

  57. W/the developement os Sasha into a competent 2,I wonder if the Lakers might not be best served in future starting him,moving Kobe to SF and turning Lamar into 6th Man. Gasol’s passing ability as well as his scoring combined w/Bynum down low take alot of the pressure off Kobe to be the offense. But teams can pack the paint against Lamar’s erratic 3pt shot and dare Kobe to fire away from the perimeter. Sasha gives the team a legit 3pt threat,creating better spacing and,combined w/a Kobe w/more energy for D,a much better defensive presence on the perimeter. Lamar would still get 30+ minutes being bothe third big and the third wing and should have huge advantages over most other teams’ second unit. Combine him w/Farmar and the second unit has the nucleus of a fast-breaking energy unit.
    I know others have suggested such a role for Lamar before,but the problem for me was who’s going to start? Ariza has his strong points,but he has no outside shot and his constant availability is questionable. Expecting a late draft pick to start for a contending team is not a wise strategy,and who could the Lakers sign/trade for? Sasha may not be perfect and is less talented than Lamar,but he may be a better fit in the starting line-up.

  58. We’ll pick this up at halftime.
    Lakers played a second quarter that left Jason Kidd feeling confident about his shot at Jason Kapono’s three point crown. He’s been that wide open. Dirk was really feeling it. Hitting jumper after jumper over the Lakers outstretched hands. They need to go at him on defense. He can’t move side to side and forces the Mavs defense into giving help. Ira Newble actually got to play for a few seconds at the end of the half. He’s wearing number 14 and sporting a great farmer’s tan. Kobe may need to come out in the second half with a lot more aggressiveness. One last note, my ears are bleeding from John Berry’s “analysis.” If he somehow caught laryngitis right now, I don’t think I’d be particularly upset. In celebration, I’d probably pop open the Yellow-Tail sparkling wine that is sitting in my fridge…calling to me…mmm… oh sorry. I got sidetracked. Lakers down by 10. 54-64.

    3rd Quarter
    11:40 – On Dallas’s first possession, JET is isolated on Gasol and this looks like it’s going to be ugly. Yep, Terry threatens to take it to the bucket but Gasol gives him enough space to make sure he doesn’t catch any diseases JET might have. JET pulls back and hits a 20 footer. Whoa Nellie! Phil calls a timeout. He’s pissed about that possession. That’s a new record for earliest timeout by Phil Jackson ever.
    10:08 – Lamar corrals a rebound and takes the ball up the court. On the semi-break the Space Cadet dives for first base. Safe! Refs call a foul on JET for tripping the Space Cadet. The announcers are refusing to announce the game. Guess who is telling us about how competitive and tenacious Kobe Bryant is? Yes, that’d be our good friend, John Berry. Someone Tonya Harding him please.
    9:20 – Mark Cuban is here. We’ll see if he sends eye daggers at any Lakers girls tonight. I bet they’d promise to never blog again if he did.
    8:40 – On nationally televised games, the allowable sponsorship rules are different. Those alien disc things used to wipe the sweat off the floor have the Lakers logo on them. Usually they have the Foot Locker logo on them. More useless knowledge for the faithful Forum Blue and Gold reader. You can thank me later.
    7:18 – I guess I should mention the Lakers are making a little run and playing good defense. Mostly spurred on by Kobe’s activity on offense. They are down 4, 66-70.
    7:02 – they have quickly realized their mistake and give up a Jason Terry layup and a foul. He misses the free throw.
    6:48 – MVP chants get synchronized during a Kobe free throw. The first time the chant gets started, usually when nothing noteable has happened, it’s always disjointed. It’s like a collective MVP stutter. this one is nice and loud.
    5:38 – Dirk drives the lane and does his best Dr. J impression. Scoop layup.
    4:32 – Lakers got sloppy. Jason Kidd steal leading to a fast break layup. The lead opened up to 11. I’m not really sure how that happened. Plenty of time left but this feels like the Mavs game to lose.
    “in a game like this, something stupid will try to happen. Stay focused.” ~Avery Johnson in the huddle. Jason Terry plays along and points to his head. “Right here.” That was quality. I love the coaches being mic’d up.
    3:36 – Pau gasol gets a nice bucket in the post against the tall German after Dirk had educated Lamar on the proper use of the reverse pivot going baseline at the other end.
    3:00 – Kobe hits a contested three right in Devean George’s grill. Lakers down by 6.
    1:40 – Kobe gets beat to a rebound by Josh howard. Lazy play. And he fouls Howard as well.
    1:21 – The MACHINE! Throws up the three and JET gets him across the arm. He converts the 4 point play, the old-fashion way.
    0:40 – Tyronn Lue shows us why he impersonated Allen Iverson during the 2001 Finals. Famar had to immediately seek medical attention from Gary vitti for his shattered ankles. Boy that was a little embarrassing. I was embarrassed for him.
    The quarter ends with the Lakers down by 7. 80-87.
    Lisa Salters interviews PJ during the break. He’s so smart that I can’t understand anything he says. Oh wait, he makes the point that we aren’t stopping anything dallas wants to do. On that, he and I agree whole heartedly.
    4th Quarter
    11:50 – Newble is out there again. Mike Breen tells us this is the first time he’s checked in but we know that’s not true.
    11:31 – And Newble grabs his first rebound! And Farmar hits a three! Lakers down by 4.
    11:05 – Kobe Bryant and Bynum start making out on the bench. Just checking to see if you’re paying attention.
    10:30 – Lakers decide they don’t want to take the lead too soon. Down by 8 again. Oh nice. Vujacic hits a three to bring them back within 5.
    9:10 – lazy pass by the Mavs leads to an easy layup by Son of bill.
    8:52 – Yikes! The tall German just rises up and drains a three. Nothing but bottom. That was nice.
    7:40 – Lakers playing well here. Down by 1!!!! 94-93. Some great hustle tracking down rebounds has given us some life. Credit Ronny Turiaf a little bit here. Kobe’s on the bench and Famar is making great decisions as the distributor.
    7:02 – When the play ends up with Luke Walton taking an off-rhythm jumper over the Tall German, that’s not what I’d call execution.
    6:15 – Lamar does his patented miss the first, make the second routine. Pau gets subbed out after just checking in
    5:48 – Lakers down by two. Lamar puts on his Kobe Bryant cape. It forces the wearer to take the defense one on five. Possible side effects include getting caught in the air and throwing the ball to the young lady sitting courtside. Involving the fans, that’s what being a Laker is all about. He smiles at his silliness. I throw the remote at the TV. Lakers down by 2.
    5:00 – Dirk is going to win this game for the Mavs. He can’t miss.
    4:44 – MAN SAUCE! Jordan Farmar flies down the lane. Draws the blocking foul on Josh Howard who got a great view of Jordan’s belly button.
    4:09 – rough stretch for Josh Howard. He just drew a technical foul for throwing his headband on the floor. It’s a good thing the refs called that. He might’ve caused permanent damage to the vintage maple finish. Kobe hits the technical. Lamar has a chance to the bring the Lakers within 1 on free throws. He changes it up and misses the second one. Lakers down 2. 101-99. Lawler’s law is on the line here.
    3:45 – John Berry describes Kobe’s “great body control.” Excuse me while I take my mind out of the gutter. Kobe ties the game with his free throws. 101 – 101. All we need now is some dalmations.
    3:17 – Lamar earns a double double with his tenth rebound right here. Great work boxing out Dampier.
    2:44 – Mavs take a 1 point lead on a JET free throw. He bungled the first one.
    2:17 – With the shot clock winding down, Kobe uses a burst of speed to leave Josh Howard on the three point line questioning his career choice and as the defense collapses, he finds Lamar on the wing who takes it strong to the rack. Makes the tough layup around Dampier. LO wants a foul called, he’ll get none. Lakers take their first lead of the game.
    1:42 – After Kobe blew a layup against the intimidating presence of Dirk, Jason terry gets two free throws to put them up by one.
    1:29 – Brain fart for the machine. He turns the ball over and then commits the foul putting the Mavs back on the line. Howard hits 2. Mavs up by 3.
    1:14 – Lamar fakes Dirk into standing still. You might not believe that it was the fake that caused the Tall German to remain motionless since it’s not much difference than his usual defense, but I assure you it was. Lamar is able to get the right handed layup to fall. Lakers down by 1. And they get a stop. Back they’ll come.
    0:40 – LAMAR ODOM FOR MVP LADIES AND GENTLEMEN. Give and go from gasol to odom to gasol. Gets the layup and the foul. I didn’t see if Gasol tried the jersey pop or not. I hope he did. Gasol gets the free throw. 108-106 lakers on top.
    0:35 – The Staples Center crowd is on its feet! Chants of DEFENSE fill the arena. Dirk isolated on Pau and his uterus gives birth to a turnover. That may do it for the Mavs. If the lakers get a bucket here the game will be over.
    0:17 – Kobe drives to the hole and draws the foul on Howard. Two free throws will pretty much put this one away (never say never). He makes the first. And then we get a nice view of Dampier’s stretch marks. I could’ve really done without that. Thanks ESPN. First John berry, then Damp’s womanly scars. Kobe makes the second. Four point lead. 110-106.
    0:09 – good defense by Pau. Aww poop. That opened the way for Dampier to grab the offensive rebound. Two point game. Dallas mugs vujacic to put him on the line. He hits the first. And the second. Avery Johnson can be seen drawing on a white board. You think he’s writing the list out for who is bring what to the post-game pot luck? He might as well be. This one is in the pooper.
    0:03 – MAN SAUCE! Jordan Farmar will have none of Jason terry’s three point shooting. He blocks him from the side. Ball out of bounds. On the inbounds, Farmar isn’t done. He deflects the inbounds pass and it goes out of bounds. 3.1 seconds left. Very solid play from farmar tonight capped by these two efforts.
    0:00 – Pau bothered (Possibly fouled) Dirk’s last shot. No good. Time expires. Big win tonight.
    Oh exciting! Lamar is being interviewed by Lisa Salters. Oh darn. He’s making sense tonight. I’m disappointed. I would’ve loved to see a repeat of the other night when he was as high as a kite. I love how basketball players have to bend down to hear the reporter. We are being treated to a great view of the top of Lamar’s noggin. Unfortunately, even in HD, it’s not clear whether he uses a razor or clippers. He starts answering questions before she’s done asking them. Maybe he thinks the interview will go quicker that way. Haha great moment there. Lisa asks him about the glue holding that cut on his head together and how I feels. He says it’s “alright though, now I got two lumps in my head. One in the front, one on the side. But it’s not gonna mess up my handsome game.” Classic.

    Gritty win tonight by the Lakers. I love this game.

  59. Great team win. This was a matter of role players filling their roles and then letting the superstars take over in the clutch.

    We are a .500 team when we just play offense and not a lick of defense. We become a good team when we start caring about defense. We become a great team when we have Bynum deterring all shots in the paint, having everyone furiously box out, and contest shots.

    Basically have everyone committed to defense. It looks like the players turn up the intensity when it matters. So hopefully in the playoffs they’ll play with that sense of urgency.

    Love Sasha’s hounding defense. He’s sometimes too agressive but he put’s so much pressure on the ball where he gets stupid fouls called on him.

    Farmar has horrible man to man defense we get it…. it’s his project this summer. When you’re getting embarrassed by Tyrone Lue it’s not your night. At least he made up for it with that clutch 3.

    Final thought… C-webb on his retirement talking about the Mavs. “I always thought the Mavs were a soft team and were just waiting to fold over.” Looks like the case tonight. Let’s see how we do against the Hornets and Spurs and go from there.

  60. Am I reading this wrong, or did the Lakers NOT clinch a playoff spot last night? Everyone is saying that they did, but:

    Right now LA is 52-24, six games ahead of the GSW, who are in ninth place with a 46-30 record. If the Warriors run the table, and the Lakers lose every game from here until the end of the season, they would be tied with a 52-30 final record. The season series was split, 2-2.

    Since they’re both in the Pacific Division, the next tiebreaker is a better winning record against the division. The Lakers right now are 9-4 against divisional rivals, with three more games to go (2 against Sacto, and 1 against the Clips), which, if they lose out, would give them a final division record of 9-7. Golden State currently has a division record of 8-5, with 3 games remaining (Sacto, Phoenix, and LAC), so winning out would give them a division record of 12-5, enough to hold that tiebreaker over the Lakers.

    Of course, every other team would also have to win enough to pass the Lakers also, and they will clinch with one more win, but I found it kind of interesting that everyone is saying that they already clinched.

  61. Folks….no PJ team has ever played a consistent 4 quarters of defense. His teams are always the kind that pick their spot where they’ll suddenly ratchet up their D when it’s needed most and that’s when they win the games. So yea it’s nice and dandy to talk about defense game all game long but PJ doesn’t work that way. There’s a reason why he is known for the triangle offense and not some sort of defense. His offense is supposed to flow all game long so that they stay within range of winning. Then, when needed most, he’ll tell them to flip the switch that controls intensity and that’s when it happens. Last night is a perfect example, hell game 7 of 200o WCF is a perfect example. So my advice is to stop clamouring for 4 quarters of defense because that’s not this teams PHILosophy.

  62. 62 – laughing hard,

    I’m not 100% sure myself, but I will try to explain how the Lakers did indeed clinched a playoff spot yesterday.
    Let’s say the Lakers lose all 6 remaining games and the Warriors win all 6, like you said. This will result in the following:

    1. The Warriors will beat the Nuggets during their final 6 games. And thus if the Nuggets were to win every remaining game except the one against GS, they would be in a 3-way tie with the LAL and GS at 52-30.

    2. And since we own the tiebreaker against DEN in such a scenario (I think head-to-head record between the 3 teams), the Lakers and the Warriors will make the playoffs and the Nuggets will be eliminated.

    Hope that explains it!!

    And Warren,

    Yes, I am not hesitant to admit I’m free of pessimism and I often do act as though the Lakerland will come to an imminent doom. But I always thought the #1 seed was given to the team with the best record and not the team with the best +/- differential in points. And you cannot just casually dismiss Utah’s superior differential to just homecourt wins. Keep in mind that if they did not frequently lose the silly type of games to MIN, LAC, or other inferior teams on the road, they would have a much better +/- than the Lakers. I’m not saying that the Jazz are the better team but just illustrating how you can use a statistic in both ways.
    I disagree with you about the Spurs. Something tells me they are saving their best for the playoffs. I respect them yes, but to a certain degree I fear them for their experience, a key ingredient the Lakers are lacking thoroughly. But only time will tell, and I certainly hope that I am proven wrong.

  63. 59, After watching Sasha last night down the stretch, wondering if they could go big with Sasha and Kobe in the backcourt and Odom/Gasol/Bynum up front. Phil’s always liked big guards, and Kobe/Odom can handle the initiator duties. I haven’t seen enough of Sasha’s defense on quick guards like CP3, but if he quits gambling he can be quite a pest out on the wing.

    46, Playing devil’s advocate here, but if I’m Mitch I have to think about flipping Lamar/Mihm/whomever else they have into a long-term option at 3/2, IF Lamar is serious about hanging it up. Hard to find good mid-levels, especially players that could thrive in the triangle. That being said, if Lamar wants to stay, keep him, sign him to an extension. When he’s aggressive and on his game the Lakers are dominant.