Calling this game wild doesn’t really do it justice.
Three Lakers and two Mavericks were ejected. Seven technicals were handed out to seven different players. The teams combined to shoot 62 FT’s. A first half of offensive fireworks turned into a defensive, foul heavy slug fest in the second half. And after it was all said and done the Lakers cruised past the Mavs 110-82 to win their 8th straight game and increase their lead over them to one and a half games in the race for the 2nd seed.
And while most will focus on how this game devolved into a shoving match with flagrant fouls and ejections, what I’ll remember is how the Lakers once again proved that the Mavs truly struggle to compete with them over the course of a full contest. Dallas may have been able to keep this game close early on by making their jump shots and changing up the pace of the game with their reserve guards, but the Lakers bigs were again too much for the Mavs front line to handle.
With Andrew Bynum scoring 18 points on only 9 shots and grabbing 13 rebounds and Pau Gasol pouring in 20 of his own on only 14 shots while chipping in 7 boards of his own, the Lakers starting big men controlled the interior and just wore Dallas down. Bynum especially dominated the paint by earning excellent position inside and punishing any Dallas defender that tried to guard him. On several possessions he simply buried a Maverick big right in front of the rim and executed a simple jump hook for the easy two. As for Gasol, he worked his mid-range game to perfection but also went into the post against Dirk and got off several good looks in the paint as well. And when the Laker bigs weren’t scoring on their own shots, they cleaned up for their mates by securing offensive rebounds cleanly or simply tipping balls back into the hoop after their teammates’ misses.
Despite fantastic performances from Pau and ‘Drew though, Lamar Odom may have been the big man that really made the difference. In a game that many were claiming could determine who wins the 6th man of the year award, Lamar came up big (again) by scoring 16 points on 10 shots, grabbing 11 rebounds, and dishing out 3 assists. When the game was still relatively close at the end of the third and into the fourth quarter, LO went on a personal 11-0 run to break the game open by knocking down three consecutive 3 pointers and then getting to the bucket for a lay up. That push put the Lakers up by 20 and that was essentially the game.
With Dallas down big, however their frustrations started to boil over. Only a couple possessions after LO’s lay in, Steve Blake penetrated on the left side of the floor, took a bump from Jason Terry, and then proceeded to get shoved to the ground by Terry after the whistle blew. Blake, never one to back down, promptly got up and went face to face with Terry to voice his displeasure. As the refs rushed in to break up them up, Matt Barnes came in and gave a strong push to Terry and all hell broke loose. Before you knew it Brendan Haywood was going after Matt Barnes, Barnes was being restrained from behind by a Dallas Coach (who he ended up pushing down when trying to escape his grasp), and Blake and Terry were still trying to get at each other. The whole thing was simply crazy and resulted with Blake, Barnes, Terry, and Haywood all getting tossed.
After order was finally restored to the game, the Mavs made a quick push, the Lakers recovered nicely and got the lead back to 19, and the benches came into the game. However, before all the Laker starters could come out of the contest there was one last incident. After securing an offensive rebound and going back up for a put back, Pau Gasol got hit in the head and knocked to the ground by Brian Cardinal. Shannon Brown then shoved Cardinal and then was promptly ejected for sticking up for his teammate. All in all that meant all three of the Killer B’s got ejected. (As an aside, Brian Cardinal was playing sort of like a hockey goon at this point. I watched him for several consecutive possessions and on each play he took some sort of cheap shot at a player. Whether it was a giving a little bit extra push on a screen or going out of his way to bump a guy when he cut through the lane, he was initiating contact as often as he could. At the time I noted on twitter that he was playing dirty and a couple of plays later he committed his 2nd foul on Pau that ended up getting Shannon ejected.)
In the end, there was so much more to this game that deserves mention that it’s kind of sad most of it will be overshadowed by the chippiness of the game and fact that Barnes may be facing further sanction from the league. I mean, Kobe had another good night scoring 28 points to go along with his 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and two steals. Ron Artest continued his offensive resurgence by hitting several key jumpers, including 2 of his 4 three point attempts, on his way to 13 points. Ron was also very good night moving the ball and in making plays for others, tallying a team high 6 assists while having 0 turnovers. As a team, the Lakers were excellent on both sides of the ball posting an offensive efficiency of 117.0 while committing only 7 turnovers (including zero in the fourth quarter. Their defense was just as great as they limited the Mavs to only 12 fourth quarter points, only 31 in the 2nd half, while posting a defensive efficiency of 87.2. Dallas only shot 36% from the field and no one outside of Dirk had a meaningful affect on the game.
Simply a dominant performance that has the Lakers in prime position to continue their run, playing what’s easily their best ball of the year. At this point, I think it’s fair to say that there isn’t a team playing better ball right now than the Lakers. And considering we’re only 8 games away from the end of the regular season, I’d say that’s pretty good timing.