Kobe Bean was brilliant in this game, rattling off 38 points on only 21 field goal attempts, grabbing 12 rebounds, and dishing out 7 assists. His all around play carried the Lakers early (16 first half points) and late (14 of his 22 2nd half point came in the 4th quarter on 5-5 shooting), making it so the Lakers could claim a sorely needed victory in their pursuit of moving up in the standings.
Some notes on Kobe and the game in general:
- What made Kobe’s night so amazing was his ability to mix incredible shot making (seriously, go watch that video again) with some very good decisions in how and when to move the ball. Kobe’s 7 assists were a team high and he got a lot of those dimes by simply reading the D in front of him and making the correct pass to an open teammate. After the game Kobe spoke of “putting it all together” after a season that has seen him play the roles of dynamic scorer and pass first facilitator in heavy doses. If Kobe can indeed find a way to keep his scoring up while still setting up his teammates for makable shots, the Lakers will take another leap offensively.
- Kobe wasn’t alone on offense though as his backcourt partner also showed up in a big way. Steve Nash scored a season high 20 points on 7-12 shooting and handed out 4 assists as well. Nash consistently took advantage of any space the defense gave him when sending extra attention Kobe’s way while also creating shots for himself by attacking the P&R. Nash ran the action several times at former teammate Dirk Nowitzki, exploiting the big German’s lack of foot speed on the perimeter and turning the corner several times where he either got a good shot for himself or collapsed the defense to set up a teammate for an open shot. Nash’s shot making also created space for Kobe as the Mavs couldn’t send a double team from the top of the key and instead had to send help from the weak side block. This put the Mavs into rotations early and that helped generate offense for Lakers all over the floor.
- Speaking of Dirk, he too was brilliant in this game, scoring 30 points on 11-19 shooting including all 4 of his three pointers. Dirk also grabbed 13 rebounds and did a good job of helping the Mavs close out defensive possessions after the Lakers missed shots. Down the stretch of this game Dirk hit several big buckets of his own — at one point on twitter I called the Kobe/Dirk back and forth a battle of the gods — and really kept his team in the game when it looked like Kobe’s play would have allowed the Lakers to pull away.
- The difference for Dirk, though, was that he didn’t get much help from his teammates — especially his partners in the starting lineup. Shawn Marion (6 points), Darren Collison (7 points), and O.J. Mayo (8 points) combined for only a single point more than Nash scored and could never really put anything together offensively. The play of Mayo and Collison (combined 5-20 from the field) was especially disappointing if you’re a Mavs fan simply because they were directly matched up with Kobe and Nash and could not only do little to get their own points, but also gave up big nights to their counterparts.
- I haven’t mentioned Dwight yet because he had a pretty uneven game. He picked up 2 fouls before 4 minutes passed in the 1st quarter and had three fouls before the half came, resulting in him only playing 11 minutes out of the first 24. This really affected his offensive rhythm and kept him from being as aggressive as he could be on both sides of the ball. In the 2nd half he played much more free but never did find his rhythm on O, though he did do very good work on the glass and in protecting the paint. His final point tally of 9 points (2-7 shooting) wasn’t very good, but his 13 boards, 2 steals, and a block were quite important to the win.
- If you’re looking for a single team stat that had a huge impact in the result of game look no further than the Lakers 13-25 from behind the arc. Even though the Mavs shot 8-18 from three, the Lakers were able to best them and that shot making was huge.
- The Mavs got great contributions from their bench with Elton Brand and Vince Carter both scoring well (14 and 15 points respectively) and giving quality minutes. In fact, the Mavs’ bench scoring of 48 points, really kept them in the game. That said, the Lakers trio of bench players also played well in their own right with Jamison’s 13 points and Meeks’ 11 points, and Blake’s 5 points and 2 assists (with some good defense and offensive facilitating) making a difference. With D’Antoni going to an 8 man rotation while Gasol nurses his foot injury, it’s important that the Lakers’ bench guys play well and against the Mavs they did.
- Metta World Peace’s struggles on offense continue. He was 0-6 in this game and scored only a single point (though on a pretty big FT late in the game). His defense was also up and down as he had issues guarding the Mavs’ wings early in the game but played a physical style on Dirk in the final two minutes that helped limit his play. I don’t want to be too hard on MWP simply because it’s obvious he’s out there playing his heart out, but when he’s not hitting shots but insists on stopping the ball when he gets a touch, he really does disrupt the flow the team is trying to create on that end of the floor.
Every win is important for the Lakers at this point, but a win against the Mavs on the road when both teams were tied in the loss column is especially so. Add in the fact that this was the front end of a back to back with the team flying to Denver to play in altitude against the red hot and home dominant Nuggets and the stakes were even higher.
And while it looked like the team may not get it done, they turned around and pulled it out at the end. In large part because of Kobe.