Kobe and Co. showed the Mavericks who is ready for the playoffs with a 110-82 shellacking of Cuban's team. The game was close in the first half of play, but the Lakers began to separate from the Mavs behind Odom's shooting and Bynum's defense. At the close of the third quarter, the Lakers were ahead by 12 points, a lead that they will protect and add to in the fourth.
Perhaps the turning point of the game occured at the 9:23 mark of the fourth quarter when a melee ensued involving Terry and Blake. Terry pushed the driving Blake to the sidelines, knocking the Laker down. Chaos immediately followed when Blake stood up against Terry and Barnes came in to help. Even Brendan Haywood, somehow got involved. The end result was a flagrant foul 2 for Terry and the ejection of all four players from the court. Dallas tried to get back after that, reducing a 20 point lead to just 12. But the Lakers stormed back behind Bryant to bring the lead back up to 20.
Kobe led all scorers with 28 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists. Pau Gasol who got into foul trouble added 20 points 7 rebounds 2 assists and 1 block. Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom had double-doubles. The Bynumite had 18 points 13 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks. The Sixth Man candidate, Lamar Odom, had 16 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal. Lamar was responsible for 11 straight points that padded the Lakers lead to 19 points early in the fourth quarter. If the game would be used as a criterion for the Sixth-Man award, Odom would get it since the nearest candidate, Jason Terry was ejected from a game in which he can only score 5 points.
For the Mavericks, only three players scored in double-figures (the Lakers had five of them). Novitzki had 27, Stojakovic had 13 while Barea made 10. The Lakers held them to just 36% shooting while outrebounding them 52-47 and forcing them to 13 turnovers. Even the vaunted 3-point shooting of the Mavs -- highest in the league at 39% -- was held down to 23 % by the Laker's defense.
Theo Ratliff finally made his first appearance with the Lakers after getting sidelined for his knee surgery. He was the one who made the technical free throws related to the flagrant foul 2 of Terry. Joe Smith also got into the action and posted 4 rebounds in 3 minutes of action. Shannon Brown can only play for about 20 minutes since he was also ejected towards the end of the game after shoving Dallas's Cardinal. He managed to contribute 5 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, and 1 steal.
With the win, the Lakers cement their hold on the No. 2 spot while getting closer to the Spurs which lost earlier to the Celtics. The top 10 of the NBA now appears as follows:
- San Antonio 57-18 (.760)
- Chicago/Lakers 54-20 (.730)
- Dallas 53-22 (.707)
- Boston 52-22 (.703)
- Miami 52-23 (.693)
- OKC 50-24 (.676)
- Orlando 47-28 (.627)
- Denver 45-29 (.608)
- Atlanta/New Orleans/Portland 43-32 (.573)
- Memphis 42-33 (.560)
The Lakers and Bulls are locked in 2nd place while Dallas, Boston and Miami are in a scramble for 3rd. Notice too that all the top 8 of the Western Conference are right now in the NBA's top ten, with the Grizzlies way ahead of the East's No. 6 -- Philadelphia (39-36, .520) at No. 10.
The Lakers have 8 games left for the month of April and the rest of the regular season. After today's game, they play their second of a back to back as guests in Utah. Then they go back to Staples for two more games -- against Denver (April 4, Monday, GMT +8 ) and then Utah (April 6, Wednesday, GMT +8 ). The next day, they visit the Warriors (April 7, Thursday, GMT+8 ), then Portland on Saturday (GMT +8 ). They resume their homestand against OKC (Monday, April 11, GMT +8 ), before they meet the Spurs in another playoff preview Wednesday (April 13, GMT +8 ). Their last game will be in Sacramento against the future Anaheim Royals -- or whatever. That would be Thursday here, April 14.
Utah, Golden State and Sacramento are all out of playoff, but as you well know, in the NBA these are the teams that are more likely to give top-seeded teams like the Lakers a run for their money. Denver, Portland, OKC and San Antonio are all playoff bound teams so their games with the Lakers are all possible playoff previews. The Lakers will be facing a Denver team that has been freed from Carmelo Anthony and is now playing their best after the trade with the Knicks. Portland has been rated "scary" to the Lakers by no other than Magic Johnson himself. OKC with its frontline reinforced by ex-Celtic Perkins will be fun to watch especially when they go head-to-head with the Laker defense. Finally, if San Antonio is still no. 1 by then, then the Lakers might as well show them who should be the top seed of the West -- that is, if Kobe and Co. continue with their winning ways.
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