Sure, the news coverage will focus on Jason Terry’s knockdown of the Lakers’ Steve Blake and the fracas that followed with the game all but decided in the early minutes of the fourth quarter tonight at Staples Center. But what shouldn’t be overlooked in the Lakers’ eighth consecutive victory and their 16th in 17 games since the All-Star break is how they thumped the Mavericks. They did it with a stifling defense that limited Dallas to 11-for-41 shooting (26.8 percent) in the second half. They did it by outscoring the Mavericks, 56-31. It remains to be seen if they will be at full strength for Friday’s game against the Utah Jazz. Blake and teammate Matt Barnes were ejected as were Terry and teammate Brendan Haywood. Terry drew a flagrant-2 foul for shoving Blake to the court with both hands. The league will review the video before the Lakers tip off against the Jazz.
There wasn’t much difference between the Lakers and the Dallas Mavericks in the first half of their showdown tonight at Staples Center. The Lakers, winners of seven in a row, led by as many as seven points. The Mavericks, winners of five in a row, led by as many as four. The Lakers’ best players were their best players. The same could be said for the Mavericks. Pau Gasol scored 13 points, Kobe Bryant had 12 and Andrew Bynum added 11 for the Lakers. Dirk Nowitzki scored 14 for Dalals, which outrebounded the Lakers, 25-18.
Ron Artest wasn’t sure what to make of his selection by the basketball writers’ association as a finalist for the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for his “tireless advocacy for mental health issues.” Said Artest: “I’m not sure what everybody else is doing, but congratulations to everybody who got mentioned. I’m not sure what everybody is doing in the community, but it’s cool. … I think I know the award. … I’m going to find out more tonight after the game or tomorrow and I’ll have more (to say).” The other finalists: Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic, Kyle Korver of the Chicago Bulls and Marcus Camby of the Portland Trail Blazers.
Lamar Odom used to play for the Clippers, so it’s a little strange for him to be rooting for his old team to beat the Dallas Mavericks tonight at Staples Center. But there’s a lot at stake for the Lakers, who were hoping for a Clippers upset. The second-place Lakers led the third-place Mavericks by one game in the Western Conference standings as this was written this afternoon. A loss for Dallas would make it 1 1/2 games going into Thursday’s matchup between the Lakers and the Mavericks. A win for the Mavericks would cut it to a half-game. Said Odom: “Hopefully, the Clippers get to beat them up a little bit. Hopefully, the game goes two or three overtimes, a couple of guys foul out, get nicked up.”
There was some significant news today about the Lakers’ rookie forwards. Devin Ebanks will be sidelined for another three weeks when an MRI taken of the stress fracture in his left leg was healing but not as quickly as hoped. It could mean he’s unavailable for the first round of the playoffs, not that the Lakers were counting on him to average 20 points. Derrick Caracter was assigned to the Bakersfield Jam of the developmental league.
If he wins the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award, Lamar Odom said today he would leave the trophy on the scorer’s table as a tribute to the fans who cheer for him every time he gets off the Lakers’ bench and heads to midcourt to check into the game. Here’s more: “Every time I get going into the game I hear the crowd pick me up a little bit. It’s for them. If I do win it, the night I win it, I’ll probably leave it on the scorer’s table just to kind of let the fans know it’s for them. I think that’s how I would show my appreciation.”
As expected, the NBA took another look at the confrontation between Derek Fisher and the Clippers’ Chris Kaman in the closing seconds of the Lakers’ victory Friday and upgraded Fisher’s foul to a flagrant foul 2. Kaman set a tough pick on Fisher on the perimeter and Fisher shoved Kaman. Fisher got a technical foul and Kaman got two and was ejected.
Also, Kobe Bryant was named the Western Conference player of the week after averaging 36.3 points in victories over the Phoenix Suns, the Clippers and the New Orleans Hornets. He had a season-best 42 points in a triple-overtime win over the Suns last Tuesday. He also had 12 rebounds and nine assists in 48 minutes against the Suns.
Today was a day off for the Lakers, who go back to work Tuesday.
The Lakers handled the New Orleans Hornets for the fourth and final time in the regular season, winning tonight at Staples Center. Kobe Bryant scored 30 points, Pau Gasol had 23 points and 16 rebounds, Andrew Bynum scored 13 (including seven in a key 9-2 run in the fourth quarter) and Ron Artest had 11 points. “Size,” Bynum said when asked why the Lakers swept the season series with the Hornets, a possible first-round playoff opponent. Carl Landry scored 24 points and Emeka Okafor added 14 for the Hornets. The Lakers have won seven in a row and are 15-1 since the All-Star break last month.
The second-place Lakers (53-20) moved within four games of the Western Conference-leading San Antonio Spurs (57-16), who lost tonight to the Memphis Grizzlies. The Lakers also remained one game ahead of the third-place Dallas Mavericks (52-21), who beat the Phoenix Suns. The Lakers play host to the Mavericks on Thursday with second place possibly on the line.
The Lakers worked over the New Orleans Hornets from the outside and the inside in the first half tonight at Staples Center. Kobe Bryant scored 19 points on 7-for-12 shooting and Pau gasol added 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting and nine rebounds. Carl Landry had a team-leading 13 points for New Orleans. The Lakers led by as many as 18 points just before halftime. There was even a Joe Smith sighting, which meant the Lakers were way ahead and/or Andrew Bynum was in foul trouble. They were way ahead and Bynum had three fouls and went to the bench late in the second quarter.
Coach Phil Jackson said today he admires some of the elite point guards around the NBA, including Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets and Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls. He said he believes they have great gifts in their ability to control the pace of the game and still manage to score as well as they do. He said all that as a preface to defending Lakers point guard Derek Fisher, whose role is a good deal different in directing the triangle offense.
“All these guys are dynamic point guards who can speed up the game and also score,” Jackson said. “This offense (the triangle) doesn’t require that, it requires the point guard to be a quarterback of sorts, but he doesn’t have to score the touchdowns.”
That’s Kobe Bryant’s job and that’s why Jackson sticks with Fisher.