Collective effort ensures Lakers' 100-95 victory over Dallas Mavericks
Even if flaring back pains ultimately made Lakers guard Kobe Bryant miss the entire fourth quarter of the Lakers' loss Tuesday to San Antonio, he wasn't going to allow anything to prevent him from missing tonight's game against the Dallas Mavericks.
Not the likely discomfort of overnight travel from San Antonio to Dallas. Not the short time between games that makes significant progress unlikely. And certainly not the discomfort that made him feel like he couldn't even walk during Tuesday's game against the Spurs.
And if it required him to wake up as early as 5 a.m. today for treatment, well, is anyone really surprised Mamba wouldn't do this?
What is surprising is how the Lakers responded in their 100-95 victory over the Mavericks, giving the franchise its 3,000th victory and snapping the team's four-game road losing streak.
The Lakers entered the game with several injuries, including those affecting Bryant (back, injured right index finger), Pau Gasol (left hamstring), Ron Artest (right index finger) and Sasha Vujacic (right hamstring). The Lakers ended the game showing they're capable of producing despite having limited parts.
Gasol was the only player to sit out, marking the sixth consecutive game he has missed because of the hammy. But it's fair to say Mamba, Artest and Vujacic weren't 100%.
That was especially apparent with Bryant, who looked visibly slow, scored no first-half points and had only one shot. He missed the entire second quarter, and laid down on the sideline anytime he wasn't playing.
He returned in the second half, scored eight points in the third quarter and made only one of four shots in the fourth period. But that shot was the game-winning jumper with 28 seconds remaining. It was Bryant's fourth game-winner of the season, which overshadowed Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki becoming the 34th NBA player to score 20,000 points.
Mamba may have provided the game-winner, but the Lakers won the game because of a supporting cast that collectively learned how to play without Gasol and a limited Bryant (sans Derek Fisher's three points on one-of-eight shooting).
Lakers center Andrew Bynum had his fourth double-double in the last five games, with 22 points and 11 rebounds. And though Lakers fans have yet to see that production and effectiveness happen with Gasol on the floor, Bynum showed his increased confidence working in the post.
Artest, who was wearing black tape on his index finger, scored 16 points, made all five of his field goals and grabbed 11 rebounds. He appeared to be turning a corner, operating with precision and apparently recovering from his Christmas night concussion. He didn't look tentative, a contrast with Sunday, when he asked out of the Bucks game because of a nasty fall.
Lakers forward Lamar Odom had 18 points and 14 rebounds a night after Coach Phil Jackson publicly said he wasn't being aggressive enough. Odom answered with 20 shots, the most attempts he's taken all season.
And then there was the bench, led by Jordan Farmar's 12 points. Though no other reserve cracked double figures, every one of them scored. The bench had 31 points to Dallas' 21 a day after the Lakers reserves could only muster 20 points.
Big picture, the Lakers' win against Dallas does very little beyond keeping their league-leading 30-9 record intact.
But tonight's game showed the team's ability not to rely on Bryant. As for Mamba? Whether you admire his relentlessness or remain frustrated with his refusal to rest, he showed yet again that a struggling night overall won't prevent him from knocking down yet another clutch shot and leading his team to victory.
-- Mark Medina
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