Monday, January 16, 2012
W2W4: Lamar Odom returns; Kobe Bryant on tear
By Jeff Caplan
LOS ANGELES -- Mark Cuban made a good point the other night about how useless stats can be this season because of the nature of the schedule.
Take Wednesday night for instance when the Dallas Mavericks will play the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center. How much stock can be put into stats compiled by the Mavs or Clippers in a game in which Dallas will come in after a day off in L.A., while the Clippers will be playing for a third consecutive night and coming off a road game the previous night?
"I think what people are going to overemphasize are individual game stats," Cuban said, "which in this type of season are not only misleading, but misrepresentative of contribution."
Now, take Monday's game and there's simply no way to ignore what Kobe Bryant is doing this season and, in particular, over the past four games, even if all four of the Lakers' opponents were playing the last game of a back-to-back-to-back, which they weren't.
Kobe, playing with a torn wrist ligament sustained in the preseason, is averaging a league-best 32.0 points a game, 2.5 points a game more than LeBron James. And he's blowing away the rest of the field with Kevin Durant ranking third in scoring at 25.8 points a game.
In his last four games, Kobe has scored 42, 42, 40 and 48 points and the Lakers have won five of six since starting 4-4. He also has games of 39, 30 and 37 that came in succession.
There is no doubt what Kobe's contribution is meaning to a Lakers team in transition.
Records: Mavs (8-5); Lakers (9-5)
When: 9:30 p.m.
Where: Staples Center
Radio: 103.3 FM ESPN; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: All eyes are on Lamar Odom. The forward has struggled since being traded to Dallas. Does playing his former team in front of the star-studded Staples Center bring out his best? The Mavs certainly hope so. They need Odom to have a breakthrough. ... This is a rare game this season where both teams come into a highly anticipated matchup rested. Neither played on Sunday and that should set the stage for a high-intensity game.
Key matchup: Kobe Bryant vs. Shawn Marion/Jason Kidd This could easily be Andrew Bynum vs. Brendan Haywood, but Kobe's numbers of late put him at the top of any key matchup. Marion's last big assignment was Milwaukee's Stephen Jackson, who came to Dallas after scoring a season-high 34 points and then 25 points in consecutive games. He left Dallas with seven points in a blowout loss. Marion defended Bryant well during the playoff sweep and Kidd gave Bryant fits with his late-game defense. There isn't a hotter player in the league and he'll give Dallas' improving team defense and major challenge.