Too many letdowns plague Lakers in 101-96 loss to Dallas Mavericks
It'd be convenient to chalk up the Lakers' 101-96 loss Wednesday to the Dallas Mavericks as a consequence that comes with playing on a back-to-back. But many of the mistakes that put the Lakers on the losing end had more to do with effort.
It'd be convenient to point to the Lakers' depleted rotation, with the absence of Sasha Vujacic (sore right shoulder) and Luke Walton (pinched nerve in lower back) exacerbating the team's low energy level, a quality that may have already been low because of the road travels. But the Lakers had four days of rest beforehand, Dallas played without recently acquired Caron Butler (the team called it "reaction to medicine") and since when did fans really lament Vujacic's and Walton's absence?
It'd be convenient to point to the free throw discrepancies (the Lakers went 15-of-16 while Dallas finished 23-of-26), a factor center Andrew Bynum mentioned to reporters afterwards. But how about pointing to something you can control? The Lakers lost the battle for offensive rebounds, 13-7, they committted 17 turnovers and they had inconsistent performances throughout the game.
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant had only six points on 3 of 11 shooting in the first half, but rebounded in the second half, finishing with 20 points on nine of 23 shooting along with five rebounds, two assists and two steals. The Lakers' frontline made up for Bryant's sluggish start, with Lamar Odom and Ron Artest each finishing with 11 first-half points while Bynum had eight points and seven rebounds in the first quarter. But Artest and Bynum went noticably absent in the second half, scoring only two points each. And while you may expect 31 points from Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki, you certainly wouldn't expect 30 points from backup guard Jason Terry.
Be weary of the talking point that says the Lakers' (43-15) latest loss is just one game, worry about the remaining 24 contests and remember the season is a marathon and not a sprint. Aside from the fact that the last argument seems to be bolstered mostly after Lakers losses, this game was more important since Dallas is likely a team the Lakers will meet in the postseason. Don't forget the loss also puts the Lakers one game behind Cleveland (44-14) for the league's best record.
Surely there's no need to overreact. It's just that the Lakers should seize the opportunity against every playoff caliber team they meet and put together a performance they'd feel comfortable displaying in the postseason. That certainly wasn't the case Wednesday against Dallas.
Yet, despite all the aforementioned problems, the Lakers still had opportunities to steal a win. But that didn't happen either because of poor execution late in the game.
The Lakers allowed the Mavericks to take a 74-72 lead entering the fourth quarter after guard Jason Kidd hit an open three-pointer as time expired in the third period. The Lakers opened the fourth quarter with three early turnovers. And the Lakers reached the penalty mark with 7:54 left in the game.
There was plenty of time remaining, but the Lakers spent most of it just making silly mistakes. Fisher fell on the ground as Nowitzki set a pick, Terry made an open three pointer and Dallas had a 90-84 lead with 5:20 remaining. After Bryant's turnaround jumper missed with the shot clock winding down, forward Pau Gasol missed a rebound in front of him and Brendan Haywood converted on one of two free throws as the Lakers trailed 92-86 with 2:39 left. There was also Bynum's turnover in the paint that appeared to be a defensive foul. Bynum protested the call instead of getting back on D as Terry's transition layup gave Dallas a 95-86 lead with 2:14 remaining.
Odom's six consecutive points kept the Lakers in contention, as they trailed 97-92 at the 1:13 mark, but there would be no Mamba providing the Lakers with another game winner. Though the Lakers trailed 97-94 with 24 seconds remaining and plenty of time on the shot clock, Bryant immediately attempted a three-pointer that rimmed out. Gasol couldn't secure the loose ball and ultimately was called for an offensive foul. Though Bryant's two free throws on the next possession cut the lead to 99-96 with nine seconds left, the Lakers didn't press properly and fouled Nowitzki with one second remaining.
The ending marked a cold reality. There were too many areas that contributed to the Lakers loss, and there wasn't enough of an effort to fix it.
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Photo: Kobe Bryant drives against Dallas' Jason Kidd on Wednesday night at American Airlines Center in Dallas. Bryant led the Lakers with 20 points but was nine-for-23 from the field in the 101-96 loss to the Mavericks. Credit: Paul Moseley/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT.