Dallas 114, Lakers 95

The less said about Thursday nights loss is probably the better. The second game of a back-to-back set is always an adventure and even more so when the game starts at 8:48 p.m. local time to accommodate TNT. That definitely doesnt favor the team thats already tired to begin with.

The one thing about the NBA is theres always another game around the corner. In this case, its Saturday night in Oklahoma City. The Lakers will reach the midpoint of their season as well the midpoint of Phil Jacksons three-year project to rebuild the team. I wrote a little about that for Friday.

Its only 205 miles from Dallas to Oklahoma City, so Im going to be driving it Friday morning. Sometime around 11 a.m., I figure Ill cross the state line. Its a part of the country Ive never seen and has some symbolism for the season.

Why? This was the Lakers last game in Texas on the schedule and my question for tonight is whether well be back again in the spring.

The Lakers have settled into the fifth spot in the Western Conference standings after 40 games. They could catch and pass San Antonio for third or they could fall behind Houston and into sixth. Its hard to see how they would finish any lower once Lamar Odom and Kwame Brown return.

The fifth spot is probably the most advantageous because it would bring a series against the fourth seed. That probably will be the Northwest Division champion. Utah leads the division with Minnesota four games back and Denver five back.

If the Lakers finish with the better record, they would have home-court advantage. And the Lakers and Jazz already have played two memorable games this season, with Kobe Bryant scoring 52 points in three quarters back on Nov. 30.

The Lakers could wind up with a first-round series against Houston if they climb to third. They also could face the Spurs if they slide to sixth. If Utah could catch and pass San Antonio, the Lakers and Spurs might meet in the first round that way.

Theres still a lot of basketball to play, but you can start to see playoff paths being formed. I remember last season Jackson said that he started to envision the Suns as a first-round opponent as far back as January.

Most likely, the Lakers would have to win a first-round series against the Jazz to bring us all back to Texas. That would come with a matchup against the top-seeded Mavericks in the second round.

Given how Dallas has played at Staples Center – - I think the Lakers are 12-2 all-time against the Mavericks at home – - you have to imagine that as Mark Cubans nightmare series. Forget what happened Thursday; the Lakers know Dallas is beatable.

While were on the subject, Ill also bring up something David Moore from the Dallas Morning News mentioned. His position is that its ridiculous for the NBA to award top-four playoff seeds to division winners given how few division games teams play.

Hes right. In the 82-game regular season, teams only play the other four teams in their division a total of 16 times. So just 19.5 percent of all their games take place within their division. NHL teams play 32 of 82 games within their division. For most MLB teams, its 76 of 162 games (46.9 percent).

* * *

I can’t resist mentioning one stat from Thursday’s debacle: Brian Cook and Vladimir Radmanovic somehow managed to grab only three rebounds between them in nearly 42 1-2 minutes on the court. That’s almost incredible for two players who go between 6-foot-9 and 6-foot-10. Then you have Erick Dampier for Dallas finishing scoreless but pulling down 12 rebounds and blocking four shots. Go figure, I guess.

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  • gdchild

    We really need our rebounding bigmen back, especially Odom.

    It’s also really funny how most of Lakers/Laker fans feel comfortable facing the Mavs in the playoffs.

  • Michael Teniente

    You forgot to mention that Walton only had 2 rebounds in 30 minutes.

    mike