Coming off that meltdown in Miami you had to be a little worried when things got close down the stretch in Dallas. A double digit Laker advantage in the third wilted down to just two with 24 seconds left. Luckily for the Lake Show Dirk and company just couldn’t close as L.A. held on to win 96-91 over the Mavs.
For all intents and purposes this was the biggest game of the year. Closing the gap on the Mavericks was a must at this stage in the year. It was equally important to finish this road trip on a high note.
Since that pathetic 6 point, 1 rebound first half in Miami Andrew Bynum has returned to Altered Beast mode. Tonight he abused the Mavs dropping a team best 22 points and pulling down a game-high 15 boards.
Look no further than the improved play of Bynum as the biggest reason why the Lakers emerged from their toughest four game road stretch with three Ws.
Despite double-doubles from Dirk and The Matrix, the Laker D was terrific. While the Mavs did come out cold, the purple and gold defense left Dallas black and blue. This was a physical contest that really had a playoff feel.
One area that must improve come the postseason is the bench play. Unlike the nightmare that was Miami, the Renegades were dynamic in Dallas.
Steve Blake had one of his best games as a Laker scoring 9 and dropping 5 dimes. All of Blake’s points came from beyond the arc and his point guard play was perfect. This is the guy we expected to see when he inked his deal over the summer.
Of course it wasn’t all good for the Lakers tonight.
Kobe Bryant had another off night going 6 of 20. But the bigger concern is his left ankle which he sprained in the third. KB missed some court time but returned to finish the game.
Another area of concern is the free throw shooting which was terrible tonight. The Lakers made just 63% of their 27 attempts from the stripe. Blame the bigs (Pau and Drew) who went a combined 10 of 18 with Bynum missing 5 of his 9 attempts from the charity stripe.
But let’s not focus on the negative. A win of this magnitude deserves props. A successful trip like this is very encouraging.
Before the All-Star break it looked like things were taking a turn for the worse. 9 wins in 10 games later it looks like the championship focus is back in a big way.
For their troubles on the road the Lakers are rewarded with a home game against the Orlando Magic on Tuesday. Nobody said the games were gonna get easier this time of year. Thankfully Phil Jackson has his roster rising to the challenge of defending those two titles.