The eighth seed is wide open. It is a three team race between the Dallas Mavericks, Utah Jazz, and the Los Angeles Lakers. At least it was a three team race until tonight. The Lakers have made it really hard for the Mavericks to make the playoffs with a win of the Mavericks tonight. The Lakers are now tied with the Jazz, but the Jazz own the tiebreak between the two teams. A loss tonight would have made it difficult for the Lakers to make the playoffs, and the team did what they needed to do.
Nash sat out the game with his hamstring injury, so Steve Blake started at point guard. The Lakers would need a big game out of someone, and Earl Clark stepped up. He scored 17 points on 7-14 shooting, 3-5 from three, and 0-1 from the line. He also added a nice 12 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 5 blocks in 29 minutes off the bench.
In the first quarter, the Lakers went on a quick 7-0 run to give them a four point lead. Kobe had a nice slam for a 34-year-old, and then hit a ridiculous off balance and-one. Kobe and Dwight were aggressive, and there was some good passing, but the Lakers missed a few open looks, so they went into the second quarter up 24-21.
Since Nash was out, Kobe had to take over the point guard role for the second game in a row. He ended the half with 15 points, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds.The Lakers closed the half on a 20-9 run that had them leading 46-33. Clark and Pau played some terrific defense on Dirk, he only scored five points.
At halftime, Shaq had his jersey retired. There was a video of Kobe saying some words to Shaq. Phil Jackson came out and told a couple stories, and a few jokes. When he came out, there were a bunch of “We want Phil” chants. Jeanie Buss came down and talked a little bit as well. As Shaq’s jersey went up, the Superman song was played. His jersey hangs beside Magic Johnson’s, and under Jerry West’s.
Back to the game. The Lakers were held scoreless for over four minutes in the third quarter. Their lead was down to five after an 11-0 run by the Mavericks. Earl Clark ended it with an and-one. He then came down on the next possession to hit a three. Jamison capped off a 9-0 run by the Lakers. The Lakers went into the fourth quarter up 72-61.
Kobe went into closer mode like we’re all used to by now. He had a ridiculous block on a Brandan Wright dunk attempt. The Lakers were still struggling, however. They were turning the ball over too much, as they the whole season. Dirk suffered an injury allowing Pau and Dwight to go to work in the post. It wasn’t until the Mavs started to foul Howard on purpose, otherwise know as Hack-a-Howard. Dwight made them pay, going 7-10 from the line when he was fouled intentionally. The Lakers started to pull away, and Kobe recorded his second triple double of the season when he grabbed a missed free throw.
The final score ended up being 101-81.
Kobe had a fantastic night. He finished the night with 23 points on 8-18 shooting, 11 rebounds, 11 assists, 4 steals, and 2 blocks. His defense was really good as well. He also played all but one minute, just like in the last game against the Kings.
Dwight was his usual self scoring 24 points on 7-12 shooting, 1 block, and 12 rebounds. Pau didn’t start off well, but he finished strong. He scored 14 points on 6-13 shooting, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists.
The Lakers next play on Friday at home against the Memphis Grizzlies, which gives Steve Nash and the rest of the team two days of rest. At this point in the season, every game is crucial. Friday is no different. If they play the way they did at times tonight, they should be able to pull out a win, and keep themselves in the playoff picture.