Here’s an interesting stat. The Lakers committed just eight fouls in Friday’s win over the Mavericks. After a quick search through the record books, a team staffer determined that was the fewest in any game in franchise history. The previous record was nine.
When the Lakers last left the Dallas Mavericks on November 11, the Mavs were in the middle of a painful tailspin.
There were questions about Jason Kidd’s age, new coach Rick Carlisle’s system, even owner Mark Cuban’s stock trading.
But a lot changed over the past two and a half weeks. The Mavs five-game losing streak turned into a five-game winning streak, meaning Friday’s post-Thanksgiving showdown with the Lakers at Staples Center was a lot more than a meeting of the team with the best record in the NBA against a team playing .500 basketball.
It was a meeting of the two hottest teams in the Western Conference. And like they have at just about every challenge thus far, the Lakers rose to meet it, rallying from a sluggish start to beat the Mavs 114-107.
The Lakers improved their record to 13-1, which leaves them just three wins shy of tying their best start in franchise history.
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle made no secret about his team’s strategy against the Lakers.
“They’ve gotten so much better defensively that if you let them get set up, it’s very hard to get shots,” Carlisle said before the game.
In other words, the Mavericks intend to run at every opportunity they get. In the first half, they got out in transition frequently, which is why they were able to build a 57-51 halftime lead and why they were able to shoot a blistering 58.5 percent from the field.
Jerry Stackhouse was the Mavs second-leading scorer the last time they played the Lakers, but he didn’t even make the trip this time. Stackhouse has been inactive since November 16 and is actively seeking a trade.
“He’s not on this trip,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said before the game. “He had a treatment on his foot that requires him to stay off his foot for a few days.”
A lot has changed in Dallas since the Lakers last saw the Mavericks on November 11. Back then, the Mavs were in the middle of what ended up as a five-game slide. Now, they’re on a five-game winning streak. Stops in New York, Charlotte, Memphis helped in that cause, but wins are wins.
So what’s changed?
The simple answer is that the Mavs are figuring out what they do best. Namely, getting out and running, then letting Jason Kidd do his thing.
“They’re playing with more urgency,” Lakers forward Trevor Ariza said. “They’re starting to come together and get up and down the floor a little more.”
Andrew Bynum said he would play tonight against Dallas despite having a bone spur break free in his right ankle. Bynum was injured when he stepped on the foot of New Jersey’s Vince Carter in the second quarter of the Lakers’ victory over the Nets on Tuesday.
Bynum worked out before the game and said:
“It felt OK. It doesn’t feel fine, but it feels OK. I’m going to give it a shot in the game and see if that doesn’t make it any worse. It happened in the second quarter Tuesday, under the six minute mark, I remember that. It’s a little bit swollen, but it’s bearable. It’s just aggravation. They can’t really do anything to it, just put ice on it. Doc said if it doesn’t get any more painful then it should be resolved in about two weeks. There’s no risk (of further injury).”
Lakers owner Jerry Buss just did an interview on AM 570 that I found pretty interesting.
Here’s what he had to say about Kobe Bryant’s future with the Lakers. The question was whether Kobe could play until he’s 40 years old? Whether Kobe might want to play that long to try and break Kareem’s all-time scoring record, or win a bunch of championship titles.
“You know he’s such a tough guy, he probably could do pretty much whatever he wanted to do,” Buss said. “But at the same time I can’t imagine Kobe would want to do that. There’s been so much wear and tear on the body, I think he would probably not want to do that.”
Kobe Bryant scored a season-low 12 points, and the Lakers still won by 27 points. Bryant shot only 5-for-17, and the Lakers still won without a worry.
Asked what it said about the Lakers, Bryant said, “It says we’re a good team. We did a good job defensively. The first half we were a little shaky, but the second half was much better. We just had to get used to what they were doing.”
Lakers coach Phil Jackson had mixed feelings about winning so handily without Bryant contributed much of note offensively. Said Jackson:
“It’s a good sign, a healthy sign. But we want Kobe to shoot the ball well and have good games, obviously. That’s the focal point of our offense. We want him to be the threat that everyone has to overplay and be concerned with because that makes everyone else have an easier game.”
The Lakers scored a season-high 120 points behind 26 points from Pau Gasol. The real story of this was the Lakers utter dominance in the second half.
The Lakers led just 56-54 at the half, then came out of the locker room and absolutely dominated the Nets, outscoring them 64-39. That’s right, 64-39 in the second half.
“We came out of the locker room with a lot more focus,” Gasol said in a postgame interview. “I think we were much more solid in the second half.”
How dominant were the Lakers in the second half?
Well, the starters didn’t even need to play in the fourth quarter, allowing nine players to play at least 20 minutes on Tuesday night.
Want some other crazy stats?
The Lakers held New Jersey to 26 percent shooting in the third quarter and 16 percent in the fourth.
After being tied at 66-66, the Lakers went on a 41-15 run.