There will be games when scoring will be enough. Tonight, against the Mavs, was not one of those games. What the Lakers needed was defensive effort and the stops that follow but instead they tried to rely on their offense to carry the way and they fell way short by the score 109-100.
Early on, it didn’t look like the Lakers would be forced to pay for their poor defensive effort. Actually, scratch that. Early on, I thought the Lakers approach of leaving certain players open on defense wasn’t going to hurt them. Intent to ensure that Dirk didn’t find his offensive rhythm, the Lakers forced Jason Kidd, DeShawn Stevenson, and Sasha Pavlovic to shoot open jumpers and early on only Pavlovic made them pay. Neither Kidd or Stevenson could make open shots and the Lakers happily took the ball the other way to execute their offense quite well. The ball went inside to Gasol and Bynum, Fisher and Kobe were making excellent choices with the ball and the team was scoring pretty easily. By the time the first quarter ended, the Lakers were up 31-23 and it looked they were well on their way to a win.
Then, the rest of the game happened and Dallas turned the game around by attacking the Lakers’ weaknesses. Once Dallas went to their bench they increased the pace of the game and they started to find the range on their jumpers. Led by notorious Laker Killer Jason Terry, the Mavs got into the open court and created open looks for their shooters by running the Lakers defense into the paint and then passing back out to shooters at the three point line.
But, it wasn’t just in the open court that the Mavs were doing damage. In the 3rd quarter, the Mavs pick and roll heavy attack started to further break down the Lakers defense. With Jason Kidd quarterbacking the Mavs’ attack, they got one good look after another and turned the game from a back and forth contest where the Lakers were completely in the game to a one sided affair that put the Lakers in a deep hole.
Whether the ageless point guard was deciding to shoot or create for one of his teammates, Kidd completely controlled the game action. He sank jumper after jumper of his own (making 8 of his 12 shots including 5 of his 8 three pointers for 21 points) and then used the Lakers closeouts (when they did close out) against them to set up his mates. The main beneficiary of Kidd’s passes was Shawn Marion who, like his former Suns teammate, had a throwback game showing off a variety floaters, half hooks, and set jumpers. Marion finished the night with a 22 point effort of his own (on only 13 shots) and hit several shots to curb a potential Lakers’ run.
The Lakers did do a variety of things right tonight, but when a team’s success is limited to only one side of the ball it’s often not going to be enough to win. The Lakers found that out first hand tonight as they only had a couple of bad stretches on offense but found nearly a full game of poor defense too much to compensate for. Furthermore, even when the Lakers did start to tighten up their defense, it was too late as the Mavs had already found their rhythm and just hit the contested shots too. Kidd, Terry, and Marion were all perfect examples of this as they buried some tough shots down the stretch that ultimately did the Lakers in.
Looking at this game from a glass half full approach, the Lakers can use this game as a teaching tool. By reviewing the film to this game they can see where their defensive rotations were bad and hopefully get to the root cause of some of their miscommunication on that side of the ball. Offensively, they can also take some positives away as the Mavs’ zone did little to disrupt the Lakers O and both Kobe and Gasol were able to have good games by getting good shots in the teeth of the defense. So, despite the loss there are things to build on. Too bad one of those growth points isn’t a victory.