Boxscore: Lakers 73, Mavericks 70
Offensive Efficiency: Lakers 83.0, Mavericks 79.5
True Shooting %: Lakers 45.5%, Mavericks 41.9%
The much maligned starting point guard for the Lakers gave us all a bit of crow to eat this night. Many have been wondering how to reduce his role gracefully. After all, the player that’s done so much for this franchise as a clutch shot maker and leader for multiple championship teams deserves respect, but also has deserved less playing time for his play this year. But with Steve Blake on the shelf for a month, any such plan would have to wait and fans, as they’re known to do would complain. And suffer. And complain some more.
Not tonight, though.
Fisher pulled a classic D-Fish performance from his fanny pack and showed everyone that he still has the ability to turn a game in the Lakers’ favor; that he could still impact a game the way that only players comfortable in “the moment” typically do. You see, Fisher didn’t only knock down the game winner on an open three pointer. He got steals and finished in transition too. He dug down on a double team to tip the ball away from Dirk. He hit a PUJIT to push the Lakers’ lead to 7 with only a shade over 4 minutes to go. He didn’t quite take over like it was game 3 of the 2010 Finals, but he put his imprint on the game and led his team to a win. I’m not sure how many more of these Fish has in him, but here’s hoping this isn’t the last time we see this. Because tonight was like turning on the tube and seeing one of your favorite reruns of your favorite shows with about 5 minutes left and knowing that the ending was your favorite part anyway. We all love that feeling and would hate to not have it again.
(Honorable mention #1 goes to the Laker defense and, specifically, the late game D of Pau Gasol on Dirk. Much was made of how Dirk ate Pau’s lunch last spring and those critiques are fair. Dirk was a monster in that series and Pau had front row seats. Tonight though, in the closing minutes, it was different. Pau knew all of Dirk’s pet moves and made his life tremendously difficult. Pau sat on his right shoulder and forced him to his left. Whenever Dirk would step back Pau would read it perfectly and step into his shooting pocket, arms extended, and give the big German no room to get off that deadly jumper. When you look at Dirk’s final line (8-17, 21 points) you’d probably think that the D was only average. You’d be wrong, though. Pau gave an inspired effort down the stretch and deserves his kudos. Without that D, the Lakers may end up losing this game as Dirk definitely had his jumper going after not being able to buy a bucket early.
Honorable mention #2 goes to Andrew Bynum. It’s sort of strange that big Drew can put up a line of 17 points (on 8-13 shooting) with 15 boards and a team high +6 on the night and it kind of be overlooked but that’s where we are with him. He’s not played his best ball lately but tonight his quiet efficiency and strong work on the glass were needed for the Lakers to bring home this win. Late in the game Mike Brown went brought Drew back in for McRoberts and he instantly got a post touch against Lamar Odom (a guy that Drew often sat for in the closing minutes of games in seasons past). Drew went right to work against LO by backing him down on the left block and shooting a little banker right over his extended arms. That bucket was the difference maker in the game, but it did give the Lakers a cushion they’d need considering Fisher’s 3 broke a tie in the closing seconds.)
Sadly, the Lakers’ bench (save for Josh McRoberts) earns this dubious honor. I leave out McRoberts because he played his typical hard nosed, high energy game by giving hard fouls on D and finishing in the paint on O. His 7 points on 3-5 shooting were a nice spark and he played quite well.
The rest of the bench was dreadful, though. MWP went 1-7 and didn’t do much in other aspects of the game to make an impact. Kapono only made 1 of his 3 shots, grabbed only one rebound, and dished a single assist. Meanwhile, Darius Morris didn’t make a shot in his 15 minutes, didn’t hand out a single assist, but committed 3 turnovers. He also over-dribbled a fair amount and insisted on trying to create off the dribble rather than taking the open jumper the defense gave him or simply moving the ball on on quickly and decisively. The young PG has shown in other games that he can be a player in this league but tonight was a contest I’m sure he’d like to forget. And ultimately, the entire bench should join him in simply trying to get this one out of their collective minds as quickly as possible.
The entire game was ugly. The Lakers may have “won” but their offense didn’t click all night and their defense, while scrappy and effective, left a lot to be desired over long stretches in the first half (a period where I thought the Mavs did well to get good looks that they simply didn’t knock down). In a way, it’s a skill to be able to win games in this manner; to come out on top when Kobe can’t knock down a jumper and Pau misses a bunch of bunnies that are in his wheelhouse. There’s a certain amount of pride a team can take in being able to win a gritty game where so much goes wrong and there’s literally no flow and little momentum to be had. So, in that way, I applaud the Lakers. However, as a fan and a member of the viewing public, this game was mostly horrid save for some big stops and even bigger shots down the stretch.
The Play of the Game:
What else could it be? Derek Fisher does it again and I get goosebumps.