Five things to take from Lakers' 73-70 victory over Dallas
1. The Lakers' 73-70 victory Monday over the Dallas Mavericks featured strong play from Derek Fisher in the fourth quarter. Kobe Bryant held the ball at the top of the key and appeared ready to shoot the potential game-winner. But then he drew a double team from Shawn Marion and Jason Terry, prompting Bryant to throw a jump pass to Fisher.
Fisher drained the three, giving the Lakers a 73-70 lead with 3.1 seconds remaining. It capped off a huge fourth quarter for Fisher, who scored nine of his season-high 14 points on five-of-nine shooting. He also made two key steals and closed Lamar Odom's baseline shot late in the game. Say what you will about Fisher's declining skills. I've noticed it too. But the dude still knows how to win.
2. This game was ugly. It served as the perfect argument on why compacting a 66-game schedule through four months proves to be a bad idea. It also showed that the Lakers hardly remain comfortable on offense. And the result: the Lakers scored seven third-quarter points mixed in with a whole lot of sloppy basketball.
Still, it's comforting that the Lakers could win such a horrific game by elevating their defense. Pau Gasol made up for a poor offensive night (three of 11 clip) by limiting premier scorer Dirk Nowitzki only to 21 points on eight-for-21 shooting. Andrew Bynum denied Brendan Haywood any inside presence with one point on 0-for-three shooting. And for once, the Lakers hardly had to worry about the opposing team's backcourt with 39-year-old Jason Kidd going one for nine from the field. Credit in Fisher's two-late game steals.
Clearly, Lakers Coach Mike Brown's hope for a stronger execution will take a while. But it can rely on a strong defense no matter how poor the performance.
"You should never assume or expect," Odom said before the game. "That will be cocky. I'm not cocky."
The moment he stepped at the scorer's table with 7:32 remaining in the first quarter, however, Odom received a loud standing ovation from the fans at Staples Center. Fisher immediately hugged him before checking in. Matt Barnes delayed walking to the foul line to shoot his free throws to prolong the Odom cheers. And Odom, himself, appeared to soak in the warm reception. On the next timeout, the Lakers featured a 45-second video montage showcasing numerous highlights and community appearances, ending with the message: "THANKS for the memories, LAMAR."
4. Bynum served as the main highlight. The Lakers aren't yet ready to have the balanced offense that will Brown envisions. But Bynum shows he's making the right steps. He fought better through double teams en route to 17 points on eight-of-13 shooting and 15 rebounds. He made Haywood a non-factor. And he was a part of numerous kick-outs and lobs that temporarily jump-started the Lakers' poor play. Pretty impressive Bynum's made such adjustments so quickly.
5. The Lakers' effort remains there. Forgive Bryant's 14 points on seven-of-22 shooting. It's unfair to expect him to score 40 points every night. But I wouldn't read the Lakers' ability to grind out a win against Dallas as evidence they can overcome such horrific offensive stretches.
Still, you can't fault the Lakers' work ethic. Josh McRoberts has provided endless energy. No matter how sloppy it was, there proved to be a real intent on trying to make the offense work. And even if it didn't exactly show up in their shooting percentage, Fisher's elevated play, Bynum's post presence and Gasol's defense helped the Lakers overcome a night that featured less of Bryant scoring.
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Photo: Lakers point guard Derek Fisher celebrates after making the game-winning shot against the Mavericks on Monday night at Staples Center. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times