Below are five things to take from the Lakers’ 107-95 loss to the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center:
1. Nick Young has a mild right ankle sprain. It seemed like a foregone conclusion. With the Lakers already fielding an injury-depleted roster, it only seemed inevitable that another one would happen. Yes, it has become that kind of season where seemingly no one can stay healthy. Young showed discomfort with 7:04 left in the fourth quarter after grabbing a defensive rebound and landing awkwardly.
Though Young limped his way toward the locker room, any concerns about his health doesn’t appear to be serious. He suffered what the Lakers called a mild right ankle sprain and simply needed to be retaped. Young then returned to the bench with 4:33 noticeably in good spirits. So much that he could be seen hiding a laugh behind a towel. The Lakers’ injury list remains extensive, which includes Kobe Bryant (fractured left knee), Pau Gasol (vertigo), Chris Kaman (strained right calf), Xavier Henry (bone bruise in right knee, torn ligament) and Jordan Farmar (strained right groin). So it wouldn’t have been hardly surprising if the injury bug kept spreading. But it appears that Young, who scored 14 points on 5 of 8 shooting against Dallas, will still have the chance to build off his strong play.
2. The Lakers had defensive issues. As if that’s a surprise. The Lakers looked awful on defense on the categories you’d imagine. They lacked a rim protector, were outrebounded 52-38 and conceded 64 points in the paint. No one could match up with Dirk Nowitzki, who dropped 27 points on 11 of 14 shooting. Brendan Wright shot a perfect 10 of 10 for 23 points.
3. Steve Nash played what could have marked his final game of the season. Before exiting the Lakers’ locker room to play in what could mark his last game, Nash joked facetiously to Chris Kaman that the game could mark the last game of his career. It might be too early to pen Nash’s legacy story considering the Lakers have suggested they will leave it up to him as to whether he wants to return next season for the last year of his contract that will pay him $9.8 million. But Nash wasn’t exaggerating when this could mark his last game this season considering Jordan Farmar plans to return from a right groin injury Tuesday against Houston.
There wasn’t much nostalgia, though. Nash finished with four points and seven assists. Oh, he looked dazzling all right, by infusing energy and ball movement in the Lakers’ offense. But Nash fell five assists shy of surpassing current Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson (10,334) for third place on the NBA’s all-time assists list. That’s because plenty of Nash’s amazing passes didn’t materialize. The Lakers opened the first quarter shooting 8 of 22 from the field (35.4%), including four missed shots from Robert Sacre.
4. Jodie Meeks continued his string of consistency. There marked one point where the only thing Meeks could do entailed making three-pointers. Even that skillset transformed amid peaks and valleys. Fast forward this season, and Meeks showed yet another example with his 25 points on 10 of 17 shooting that he can seemingly do everything. Meeks made magnificent backdoor cuts to set himself up for open layups. He drove to the basket with both force and precision. Meeks hustled on defense. He also nailed his trusty 3-point shot (3 of 7).
If such a performance seems follow, well, it is. Meeks has posted double digits in 13 of the past 14 games. Considering the Lakers’ persistent losing and injury-depleted roster, it would be plausible to conclude on paper that Meeks is simply padding his numbers. But Meeks has actually painted a completely different picture. He has managed to score at a proficient rate because he constantly moves to open spots, passes the ball when covered, scores when he has an open look or drives when he can find a more higher percentage shot. Such concepts epitomize D’Antoni’s mantra of the “ball finding energy,” a philosophy that demands unyielding hustle and teamwork regardless of the circumstances.
5. Jordan Hill provided decent energy. It’s a tall task to fill in for both Gasol and Kaman. But Hill still provided his usual energetic presence with 14 points and 10 rebounds. The only reboundL: no one else helped him out. Sacre posted seven points on 1 of 7 shooting and four rebounds.