Mavericks 108, Lakers 72

How great would it have been if Dallas and Detroit could have played in the varsity game at Staples Center and the Lakers and Clippers played in the afternoon JV game? There were two championship teams in L.A. on Sunday and neither one calls this city home.

It would have proved more compelling than the 36-point dismantling the Lakers suffered. If you take the second half of Fridays loss to Philadelphia and all of Sundays game, the Lakers have now been outscored 165-107 their last three halves of basketball.

The biggest question, in my opinion, for Phil Jackson is how hes going to pull Smush Parker out of this quagmire. If you think back to last seasons playoffs, Parker dug himself a hole so deep against Phoenix that he never found his way out.

And Jackson admitted after Sundays game that Parker has the starting job by default right now.

“No one came out and played well enough for me to say, `Theres someone else right here to take his job, Jackson said. “There was no one else that did a better job, so I guess not. Smush has been able to hang onto this job because hes done an adequate job and nobody else has been able to replace him.

Im not sure if Jackson quite has an idea of how to get Parker turned around. In his post-game comments, Jackson referenced Parkers play three games ago in the double-OT loss to Minnesota. Maybe theres been some hangover from those four killer missed free throws.

“He played really well in Minnesota, Jackson said. “I thought he had a terrific game . . . He missed some foul shots down the stretch. I told him those foul shots were in and out. Some of it was bad luck and some of it was just the touch on the ball or whatever.

“He made a great play to take the ball away on a steal. There was every reason for him not to be despondent after that game. But the last two games have not been good and tonight was obviously triple that up.

Part of me wonders what would happen if Parker did go to the bench. His attitude is obvious to anybody whos bought a ticket or watched the game on TV . . . and thats after starting 146 straight games. His ejection Sunday was inexcusable with the Lakers desperate for any hope.

* * *

There were some horrific turnovers there in the second quarter as the Mavericks turned the game into a runaway. Start with Ronny Turiaf throwing a pass to Maurice Evans that Jerry Stackhouse was able to take the other way for an easy dunk.

You had Kwame Brown with the ball four feet from the basket . . . and deciding to force the ball even more inside to Evans. Even after the Mavericks missed a shot late in the quarter, Farmar rocketed an outlet pass out of Evans reach for a turnover.

The Mavericks converted nine turnovers by the Lakers into 14 points in the quarter. They should have had a 10th turnover as well because Brown missed three free throws (short, long, airball) with Kobe Bryant out.

* * *

Lamar Odoms return obviously will make a difference to the Lakers but just remember that they won only six of 16 games after he returned from a sprained knee ligament earlier this season.

Odom was in good spirits talking to reporters Sunday – - he said he could do chin-ups and push-ups – - but its hard to imagine him swooping to the basket with his left hand on that torn labrum.

* * *

Sometimes its easy to forget the heart some guys show in just suiting up for games. Turiaf played Sunday even though he had what he described as a “terrible time on the six-hour flight home from Philadelphia.

Turiaf was forced to lie on the floor of the charter plane with his feet on a seat for the final 2 1-2 hours. It was the only way position that brought any comfort for his aching back.

Turiaf scored seven points in 14 minutes before his back flared up. Jackson said it was good just to get him on the floor.

* * *

There was a funny moment in the first quarter when Bryant sized up Devean George with a couple of between the legs dribbles before faking a shot and drawing contact from George. Bryant made both free throws for a 20-13 Lakers lead.

George might laugh last come June. If the Mavericks win a championship, George will join Robert Horry and Shaquille ONeal in winning a ring after leaving the Lakers.

* * *

Dallas improved to 52-9 and needs to win 18 of its final 21 games to join the Jackson-coached 1995-96 Chicago Bulls (72-10) as the only team to win 70 games in a single season.

“The last six weeks are tough, playing all your conference, division rivals, Jackson said before the game. “They have nine losses. If they get through the season with 14 or 15 losses, its an unbelievable season.

* * *

The Lakers were going to hold a practice Monday the likes of which I’ve never before seen. Kobe Bryant and Brian Cook have the day off. Kurt Rambis is going to run practice in place of Jackson. Everybody else is supposed to be there. We’ll see how things go for Odom once he’s on the floor.

* * *

By Ross Siler
Staff Writer

Wasnt it only last season that Kobe Bryant scorched the Dallas Mavericks for 62 points in only three quarters, outscoring the eventual Western Conference champions all by himself in a game the Lakers led by as many as 37 points?

The contrast couldnt have been any greater Sunday night as the Lakers suffered their worst home loss in history against those same Mavericks. All Bryant could do was watch as the clock ticked away and the 108-72 drubbing went in the record books.

Bryant sat at the end of the bench, talking with injured forward Lamar Odom, and there was a glimmer of hope in that. Odom was cleared to practice today with his torn labrum and guaranteed that he would play Thursday at Denver.

Not that Lakers coach Phil Jackson was about to claim that Odoms return – - as well as that of Luke Walton – - would be enough to stabilize the Lakers, who suffered their sixth consecutive loss, the last three by an average of 24 points.

“The way theyre playing now, it doesnt matter who comes back, Jackson said. “Jesus Christ could come back and we still wouldnt have a chance because weve ruined the mix by not playing together, not doing the right thing.

The 36-point loss was the Lakers worst at home since they moved to Los Angeles and matched the sixth-worst loss in franchise history. The Lakers worst loss ever came in 129-83 blowout at Portland in January 1995.

They were saved from matching the lowest-scoring game in their history only by Jordan Farmars jumper with 6.9 seconds left. The Lakers scored just 70 points in a 19-point loss at Cleveland in November 2002.

It also was the seventh loss in the last eight home games for the Lakers and the second-worst loss in Jacksons coaching career. His Chicago Bulls lost by 37 points at Madison Square Garden in November 1992.

“We were embarrassed today, Jackson said. “That was an embarrassing loss for us. Theres no excuse for the way we played. I dont care if its the first day of Daylight Savings Time. Its still not a good enough excuse.

It was the predictable result from a game that matched the NBAs unstoppable force – - the Mavericks won their 17th consecutive game and improved to 52-9 – - and the sinking ship that is the Lakers, who lost for the 12th time in 15 games.

Bryant made just 4 of 16 shots in the first half and finished the game with 25 points. Kwame Brown was the only other Laker to finish in double figures with 10 points. The Mavericks were led by Josh Howards 24 points and Dirk Nowitzkis 19.

“I told Kobe at halftime that I thought he was trying to take it all on himself, Jackson said, “and in the process he didnt give the other guys a chance to get started and get things going. He felt the urgency in that regard.

After Jackson referenced the “unbelievable energy that brings together teams like the Mavericks, the coach could only watch as guard Smush Parker was ejected in the second quarter after his second technical foul.

Just like last seasons playoffs, Parker has fallen into a black hole. He was benched by Jackson at the end of last Sundays loss to Phoenix and missed four free throws at the end of regulation and overtime in Tuesdays loss to Minnesota.

That paled in comparison to what happened against the Mavericks. Parker was called for two fouls in the first 3:53 and then was assessed a technical foul by referee Eddie F. Rush as he complained from the bench.

Parker returned to start the second quarter and tried to throw a 1-foot bounce pass to Ronny Turiaf that was stolen. It led to a clear path foul and five-point swing for Dallas on two Howard free throws and a Jerry Stackhouse 3-pointer.

Barely a minute later, Parker was gone. He lost the ball on a drive and drew a technical for protesting that he was fouled. Thus Parker was tossed at 9:28 of the second quarter, joining Odom as the only Laker to be ejected this season.

Jackson said Parker thought he had not been called for the first technical, though the coach was skeptical of the claim, saying, “I find that hard to believe. What did Jackson say to him afterward? “There was nothing to say, he said.

The Lakers hold on sixth place in the Western Conference is down to a tenuous 1 1-2 games after Denvers victory Sunday over Sacramento. They still have a four-game cushion when it comes to falling out of playoff position altogether.

Not that the Lakers (33-31) can feel even remotely comfortable: The Nuggets could pull even in the standings this week if they can win at home against Portland on Tuesday and the Lakers on Thursday.

The Lakers were outscored 31-11 in the second quarter, made just 3 of 15 shots and committed nine turnovers. Dallas closed the half on a 13-0 run, capped by Austin Crosheres 3-pointer for a 59-35 lead.

“This team that we played against tonight is a great team, Bryant said. “Theyre playing with a lot of momentum. We caught them at a bad time. They caught us at a good time.

* * *

By Ross Siler
Staff Writer

What once looked like a potentially season-ending shoulder injury will wind up keeping Lamar Odom out for less than two weeks, a critical development for the Lakers as they attempt to regroup with 18 games left in the regular season.

Odom saw team doctor Steve Lombardo before Sundays game and was cleared to practice. It was feared that Odom would need surgery to repair the torn labrum he suffered in a March 2 game against Sacramento.

“The strength is good, so the strength will protect the shoulder, Odom said. “I regained strength really quick, so the rehabs going well right now, and Im looking forward to getting on the court.

“I will play on Thursday (against Denver), Odom added. “No doubt about it.

The Lakers are 0-5 since Odoms injury. He saw specialist Lewis Yocum last week, at which time the Lakers said Odom would defer a decision on surgery for two to three weeks to see whether he would be able to strengthen his shoulder enough to play.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson conceded that Odom, who needed surgery to repair a similar injury at the end of the 2004-05 season, would be limited in some ways once he returns. Odom still hadnt done any shooting yet, to the best of Jacksons knowledge.

“I think hed have to understand what he can do and what he cant do, Jackson said. “Theres some things, maybe going to the basket and dunking the ball, that right off the bat is something hes going to have to watch because that extension is the problem.

Injury report: Jackson said Luke Walton reported no pain and increased mobility in his ankle and was hopeful of returning Thursday. Walton was in uniform for Sundays game but did not play.

The coach also has given Vladimir Radmanovic (separated shoulder) the nickname of “Count Dracula as he watches practice from the sidelines. Radmanovic was injured in a snowboarding incident for which he was fined $500,000.

He is not expected to play until sometime in April but Jackson did say, “Hopefully, hell get back in time to play a couple games.

Center of attention: A combination of factors led to teenage center Andrew Bynum staying in the starting lineup and Kwame Brown coming off the bench Sunday. The first came with Brown showing up late to Sundays shootaround.

Brown celebrated his 25th birthday Saturday – - there were no cake-throwing incidents – - but didnt make any excuses to Jackson.

Jackson also said he “liked (Bynums) attitude after Fridays loss to Philadelphia. Bynum had another lackluster game, making just 1 of 4 shots and scoring two points, in what Jackson considered a favorable matchup against the Mavericks.

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