I’ve had this game circled in my calender for a while. Nothing beats two high-scoring Western Conference teams fighting for playoff spots with barely two weeks left in the season. The Lakers still in the hunt for that #1 seed out West, while the Mavericks are playing just to stay alive in the playoff race. A huge amount at stake for both teams. So I took close notice of this one and decided to do a live blog. I would have liked to post it live on this site, play-by-play, but I might save that for some of the playoff games.
11:30 – Kidd makes first shot. Jon Barry says his recent game against the Clippers (27 points, 9-15 shooting) was his best game as a Mav. Thank you Captain Obvious. Of course it was Kidd’s best game as a Mav – it was the first game he shot above 20% from the field.
11:20 – Kobe makes his first shot. A nice three ball.
10:48 – Kobe another three. Memories of classic Kobe vs Dallas games start flashing through my mind. Could he be on course for another?
8:20 – Fisher misses his second straight open jumper. Meanwhile Kobe hasn’t missed yet and Gasol is looking dangerous – KNOW YOUR ROLE D-FISH!
5:48 – Gasol gets the ball in the post and fumbles the ball again. It’s the third time he’s fumbled it (without losing possession), but this time he just regains control, waltzes back a few steps and sinks the 18-footer. That’s what I like to call “casual arrogance”. It’s like Gasol saying “I’m a big man, I’m gonna score from the post.. whoops, fumbled it.. I’ll just step out here… say 18 feet, watch this… swish… you see, I’m big, but I have range too, so you’re going to have to guard me out there”.
Commercial break: ESPN’s “On this Day”, which usually annoys the shit out of me, but this one was priceless. These were the voice-over guy’s exact words: “April 5, 2001 was the day Zhizhi Wang made history by becoming the first Asian to play in the NBA when he signed for the Dallas Mavericks. Previous to this, 2.14 meter tall Wang had been a star player for the Chinese Champions Bay Rockets.” Wow, a “2.14 meter tall Wang”. No wonder this day made history.
5:20 – Jon Barry is impressed with Dirk’s “will to win”. Saying how Dirk has been so hurt the last two years, with the Mavs Finals loss to Miami, then the first-round humiliation by Golden State. Which made me think, has there been a more pained player in the league the past two years? Has anyone failed harder than Dirk? I don’t think so. Jon is right. Dirk hates losing; I’ve seen him look completely deflated in interviews, and after winning the MVP last year he looked even more dejected. People criticize Dirk for being a “choker” or for being “soft”. Hell, even I do this from time to time. But let me make one thing clear: when it comes to winning and making big plays down the stretch, Dirk may not always be the hero, but he sure as hell does not shy away from those moments. Dirk always wants to take that big shot, he just doesn’t always make them. This is quite distinct to the criticism I used to level at KG a few years back, where it genuinely looked like he didn’t want the ball down the stretch. Dirk does, and he hates losing as much as any one in this league. Over the past couple of years no one in the NBA has felt more pain than Dirk Nowitzki.
4:33 – Kobe hangs on the rim while Eric Damiper makes the shot and is fouled. I’ve never seen that before. What’s the correct call there? A tech foul? Mike Breen and Job Barry clearly had no idea.
3:37 – I think Job Barry has a problem with basic arithmetic, after this sweeping left-handed drive by Odom: “He goes left 102% times out of 100″. Not only is 102% a nonsensical amount – though I understand it’s a common exaggeration made my sports announcers – but any percentage is by virtue, out of 100.
2:36 – Bryant to Odom on pick-n-roll, Odom feeds Gasol beautifully for the dunk. Kobe to Odom to Gasol – something we’ll see a lot more of in the next 5 years I’m sure.
Avery Johnson interview – These are always a highlight for me. Avery Johnson’s voice sounds like it belongs to a cartoon character. It sounds like the kind of voice someone would make to impersonate someone else, not someone’s actual voice. I tried to find some clips of his speaking – this one is a classic.
11:08 – Job Barry says Paul Gasol reminds him of Vlade Divac. If by that he means he’s white, European, and plays basketball, then yes he’s right. Other than that, they’re 106% apart.
9:13 – Kidd finishes on the fast break and the Mavs go up 5, the biggest lead of the game. Mavs are simply outhustling and out rebounding the Lakers, and Kobe gone quiet since the opening minutes. Which made me think – imagine if this was last season or the season before. Kobe nails two straight threes in the opening minute, and you can chalk up an automatic 40 or 50 (or 60) point game. If this was last season he would have had 20 points by now, I guarantee you. But this season he’s held himself in check, and sacrificed those offensive outbursts for the good of his team. I know its admirable, and it’s what’s put him in MVP contention, but I kind of miss the Kobe of 2005-2007.
8:12 - After hearing Avery in the huddle, Mike Breen says “he has one of the great voices in pro sports”. I agree Mike.
7:12 – Kidd makes a three and seems to be having another good shooting game. A week or so ago I said to some friends, when they were paying out Kidd for his terrible shooting, that he will be just fine and probably string together a few good scoring games. Yes Kidd is a streaky shooter, but that is exactly my reasoning behind that. Kidd will have stretches of 5-10 games where he shoots fine. It just so happened he started his Dallas stint with a bad streak.
6:05 – Lakers have only scored 2 points in the quarter!
5:17 – Dirk sinks a jumpshot over Odom from the left wing.
4:40 – Dirk another J from the left side. He’s schooling Odom right now. So much for his dodgy ankle!
Last 4 minutes of the 2nd – Lakers played sloppy ball, Mavs looked sharp. Kobe was really sitting back and not looking for his shot. A bit puzzling. But the Mavs lead is only 10.
10:00 – Kobe – MJ comparisons start up. Barry says Kobe is the closest thing to MJ he’s seen, and how before the US Team Qualifiers Kobe went up to coach K and said he wanted to guard the oppositions best player every game. Kobe’s defense is on another level. I was thinking about my All-Defensive teams the other day. Kobe has to make it again, has to. The interesting question is whether Chris Paul will make it. Will be hard to argue against CP3 winning the MVP if the coaches name him to the All-Defensive First Team.
9:20 – Kobe scores on the drive. Nothing spectacular. Just wanted to make note of it in case I look back on this play as the turning point.
8:40 – Gasol to Lamar for the dunk. Odom has 21 points in 23 minutes on 8/8 shooting!
6:48 – Mike Breen brings up this very interesting stat: the NBA’s scoring average across the league, is the highest its been in 13 years. That is a cool stat. For years now people have been saying things like “when the NBA was high scoring, like 10 years ago.. blah blah” Well now we’ll have this season to refer back to, no more living in the past.
4:32 – Kidd with the great steal, ends up in an open Terry Layup, like wide open, he was the only guy in the half-court. How does that happen? Never thought I’d say the Mavericks are out-hustling another team, but that’s whats happening right now.
Another “Wired” segment from Avery – He actually said these words: “In a game like this, something stupid’s about to happen, keep your focus”. If that’s not supposed to leave you confused as a player I don’t know what is.
1:21 – Sasha with the huge 4-pt play! When he caught that ball curling round that screen I thought “I know he wants to shoot it, but the defender is right on him and he’s moving so fast… can’t be a good idea to launch that shot”. But he did and it went in. Big play.
10:15 – Sasha again with a three moving fast to his left… he really just runs like a madman at full speed, catches and launches. Is any one in the league better at doing this right now?
8:48 – Dirk for three again. Momentum stuffer. Dirk has shot 11/14!
8:20 – Lamar scores after a great feed from Jordan Farmar. Lamar looks focused, he looks angry. I’m not used to seeing Lamar like this.
7:39 – Odom again! That left baby hook is totally unblockable, one of the most un unguardable shots in the league. It’s right up there with Kobe’s pull-up J, Sheed’s turnaround J, and any shot taken by Lebron within the 3-pt line.
6:15 – Interesting stat: Post All-Star break, Lamar has had the best increase (48-57) in FG% in the entire league.
5:00 - Dirk makes the fadeaway off a little one-legged hop. Absolutely nothing you can do when he starts making shots like that. One this is becoming blatantly clear – if the Mavs meet the Lakers in the playoffs, the Lakers really have no answer for the big German.
4:09 – Josh Howard gets the technical after throwing his headband to the ground, Avery goes nuts and starts yelling right in his face, like a father telling his 5-year old to go clean his room. You know when Avery said something “stupid” might happen? This could be it.
3:45 – Kobe drives, gets fouled, almost sinks it. Mamba is making it look so easy. Looking at him smirk after that foul, its like he knows the next three minutes is a formality; he will get whatever shot he wants and the Lakers will win.
2:13 – Lamar again, scores on a hanging layup off a nice feed from Kobe. Mavs needed to go to Dirk on the next possession but they don’t. Lakers get it back, but Kidd makes up for it…
1:40 – Kidd steals it, Kobe goes off at Sasha for the bad pass. So much for the new “role model teammate” Kobe. Kobe grills him, then almost didn’t help pick him up off the floor at the other end. It got me thinking, that is the kind of play Kidd was brought into this Mavs squad to make. Last two minutes, staying calm under pressure, making big defensive plays. Something the Mavs have sorely lacked the last couple of seasons.
1:12 – Odom drives, goes to his right hand after a killer fake on Dirk, who has no freaken clue what just happened. John Barry is stuck trying to figure out where that right-handed shot fits within his 102%.
40.8 – Odom to Gasol for the dunk. Great pass. Odom is playing unbelievable today. I’ve never seen him play this well, and I can’t believe I once said Odom was the 4th scoring option on this team. Ridiculous (because when Bynum comes back, it’s probably true).
17.8 - Kobe gets fouled on the drive. Game over. He won’t miss these. Chants go up. “MVP… MVP”. Got me thinking though, can he really be MVP when guys like Odom and Gasol play like this? Kobe is still clearly the heart and soul of this team, and the team’s best player, but I don’t know if Chris Paul has two other guys that can go for 25-10-5 every game. The consolation for Kobe? It will be hard to argue against him winning the MVP next season when the Lakers win 70 games.
9.5 – Back from the commerical break, Sasha is shooting FTs. What happened down the other end? Who scored? Typical fuc*en ESPN!
3.7 – Dirk tries to draw a foul on his three shot, Gasol almost runs into him. A 4-pt play there and the Vlade Divac comparisons would be quite valid.
Lamar interview after the game: What a guy, Lamar always seems like such a nice guy. When asked what was the difference in the 4th when the Lakers regained control? Odom said “Will… That’s the one thing I learnt from Kobe, you have to want to win it.” If a guy as talented as Lamar Odom learns to have the killer instinct of Kobe, then everyone else in the league is in trouble.