A nasty little game in Los Angeles on Thursday night. The Lakers showed up like champions do, they came at the Mavericks hard from the start, kept their opponents at arm's length even when the Mavs showed they had a comeback or two in them, and Los Angeles got in Dallas' head. No way around it.
Why else would Jason Terry(notes), after missing seven of nine shots, flagrantly shove Steve Blake(notes) for no reason in the fourth quarter, setting off a melee? Why else would a fine-shootin' Mavs squad come through with 36 percent from the field? Why else wasn't this a game, 38 minutes into it?
Big time focus for the Lakers in the win. Good triangle from both the starters and bench sets, and though Kobe Bryant(notes) got up 21 shots and took 15 free throws, he was more or less part of the action instead of being the show. Good thing, because Pau Gasol(notes) had his touch, and Andrew Bynum(notes) had his hook. Ron Artest(notes) hit a couple of threes (along with an old-fashioned three-point play), and Lamar Odom's(notes) two three-pointers to start the fourth quarter put this game away. He also added five more points after the game was put it away, his own personal 11-0 run, just to get nasty with it
Just 87 points per 100 possessions for Dallas, and that's a Milwaukee Bucks-like mark on a bad night. Dirk Nowitzki(notes) managed 27 points with 13 rebounds on 20 shots, but nobody else showed up offensively, and great defense from Bryant and Artest turned what could have been a classic into a laugher.
A testy laugher. There was a brawl, as you already know, and the fallout for it could affect Dallas' chances at catching the reeling Spurs in the playoff bracket. That was an odd step out of character for Jason Terry, and it could be a costly one.
Simple differences, to me, in what was an entertaining game.
I don't want to dismiss San Antonio's offense, as I know from years of watching that it has more wrinkles than your typical Steve and Eydie show (there's April's pop culture reference, is that enough?), but at its heart the Spurs rely on good spacing following a screen and roll that leads to myriad options. And that plays right to Boston's strength as they show well on a screen and roll and keep their head on a swivel. Throughout Thursday's win, Boston just had the footwork and poise to hang.
That's typical, though it gave Boston the short edge. What gave them the 10 point win was the team's exemplary and atypical shooting. Rajon Rondo(notes) led the C's with 22 points, while hitting for 11 of 20 shots, and Glen Davis(notes) was uncanny with his makes both inside and out. That isn't to say that either aren't incapable of nights like these, but they haven't been consistent with these sorts of performances.
San Antonio continues to fade, but I'm not picking them to fade away. Let's face it, this team was never seven or eight games better than the Lakers, or the beasts of the East. It's a bit arrogant to suggest that the team would have faded anyway even if Tim Duncan(notes) stayed healthy; but things are evening out, for whatever reason.
Tim Duncan managed 20 points, 13 rebounds, and three blocks for the Spurs 10 days after injuring his right ankle in an injury that was expected to keep him out much longer. Not sure how I feel about this. Remember, it's never about the first game back.