Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Lakers 109, Mavs 93
By Jeff Caplan
DALLAS -- How it happened:Ramon Sessions found his groove and it was more than Jason Terry and the Mavs could handle. While the predicted fury from Andrew Bynum never really materialized thanks to constant double-teaming, and Kobe Bryant had his first big game against Dallas -- adding a spectacular highlight-reel, gravity-defying reverse layup -- it was the newcomer Sessions who changed the game in the first half and put the shorthanded Mavs on their heels.
Sessions' line: 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting and 2 of 3 from deep, seven assists, four rebounds, a blocked shot and one turnover -- in the first half.
And the Lakers ended the half up 13, 57-44.
Sessions didn't play nearly the entire third quarter and then, with 11:03 left in the game and the Mavs within eight for the first time in a long time, he drilled a top-of-the-arc 3 for an 83-72 lead. With Sessions settling things down, the Lakers went up 94-78 with 6:45 to go and Dallas never challenged from there.
The Mavs' four-game showing of rare offensive cohesion that led to four consecutive games of 100-plus points went down the drain as the Lakers, swept by Dallas in last year's second round, have won the first three of four meetings this season. The final game is back in L.A. on April 15.
The Mavs will hope to be whole by then. In this one they were not, not by a long shot. Center Brendan Haywood missed his third consecutive game with a bruised right knee. His absence didn't set off any Bynum offensive fireworks, as the Lakers' big man surprisingly had only nine points, although Haywood might have helped close a rebounding gap that favored L.A. 46-29.
The bigger loss was small forward Shawn Marion, who also missed his third consecutive game with a sore left knee. Marion is the Mavs' Kobe stopper, having limited the league's leading scorer to 14.5 points in the two prior games. Bryant, using his height to rise over Jason Kidd and later Vince Carter, finished with 30 points on 11-of-18 shooting. Pau Gasol had 27 points on magnificent 13-of-16 shooting, making the Mavs pay for their double-team on Bynum.
Sessions finished with 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting, including 3 of 4 from beyond the arc, and nine assists. The Mavs should have feisty Delonte West (fractured right ring finger) back to stick on Sessions in mid-April.
Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavs with 26 points and 10 rebounds, but he wasn't sharp with his jumper, starting 4-of-10 and finishing 10-of-24. Terry, with 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting, was the only other Mavs player to score in double digits. One game after Dallas set a season-high with 33 assists against Denver, the Mavs managed just 15 against the stingier Lakers.
How'd Lamar Odom do against his former team, you ask? Odom looked as lost, finishing with a single point. He missed the three shots he attempted and picked up an assist and a rebound along the way in 24 minutes.
The Mavs shot 52.2 percent in the first quarter and led 29-27. But their lead, as big as eight, was short-lived as the Lakers' bench came alive in the second quarter, led by Sessions, Matt Barnes and Troy Murphy.
Bryant played the entire first quarter and by the time he re-entered the game with 6:04 to go, the Lakers had a 38-34 lead. Sessions hit his second 3-pointer with 3:09 left to cap a 24-6 run a 51-38 lead.
The Lakers ended the game shooting 58.4 percent, while the Mavs dropped to 42.7 percent.
Call the Lakers the streak-stoppers. It was L.A. in February that they stopped Dallas' six-game winning streak heading into the All-Star break. Now they ended a four-game streak as Dallas dropped to 5-8 out of the break.
What it means: The Mavs' four-game win streak is history as they fell to 27-21 and dropped a game to the Spurs in the standings, falling five games back in the division race and 2 1/2 games behind the Lakers in the conference standings. Now it's on to another rugged back-to-back against the revenge-seeking Spurs (Friday) and the scrappy Houston Rockets (Saturday), who have recent wins at Oklahoma City and at home Tuesday over the Lakers.
Bold play of the game: Posting up Kidd and calling for the ball, Kobe didn't get it from Metta World Peace dribbling up top. Instead World Peace swung it to Gasol, who saw Bryant spin past Kidd toward the baseline. Gasol sent a lob that Bryant caught on the right side of the basket as Kidd made body contact. Somehow Bryant kept his balance in midair and converted a flick-of-the-wrist reverse layup off the glass. After a Mavs timeout, he made the free throw for a 69-55 lead, the Lakers' largest margin of the game just minutes after Dallas had got within seven points.
Stat of the game: The Lakers rank 28th in the league in 3-point shooting (30.8 percent), but they buried 9 of 18 with Sessions and Barnes each draining three.