Toying with owner Mark Cuban, the Los Angeles Lakers easily defeated his Dallas Mavericks in the Sunday matinee at Staples Center, 107-100. If the final score sounds like a closer contest, don’t be fooled. Much like a cat playing with a mouse, the Lakers dominated the game when they needed to, and relaxed when given the opportunity. Kobe Bryant led the attack with 28 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. Pau Gasol added an effortless 25 points on 12-13 shooting along with his 8 boards, and Trevor Ariza posted a new career high with 26 points and provided hounding defense on point guard Jason Kidd. Lamar Odom gleefully chipped in an unassuming 10 points and 14 rebounds. Dallas, which currently sits in the eighth spot in the Western Conference, would have to face the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs. That bodes well for Los Angeles, who swept the season series 3-0 with the defensively-challenged Mavs. The game summary on this one was basically, Lakers take commanding lead to open the game, allow the visitors to inch back into the game after halftime, then subsequently allow them to take a brief lead to captivate the nationally televised audience and provide some drama, then go on a 12-0 run to take back control of the contest and stomp out any hope for a rare road victory. Although this game will not put any fear into Boston, Cleveland or Orlando, this game clearly illustrated the depth and talent of this Lakers squad. “Turning on the switch” is a phrase the media loves and coaches hate. But for one afternoon, the Lakers coasted throughout the game and flipped the switch when they needed it.
Dirk Nowitzki suffered through another difficult contest, managing 20 points on only 6-20 shooting. Pesky Jason Terry provided the spark off the bench for Dallas, posting 29 points with 7-16 coming on treys. He also continued to display an uncanny lack of fashion sense with his 5 pairs of knee-high socks and his askew blue headband that looks more like one of Saturn’s rings. Missing due to injury was second leading scorer, Josh Howard and reserve Devean George. But the Lakers have manhandled the Mavericks during the regular season even when they’ve been at full strength. The best Dallas can hope for is that they can somehow move up in the standings to avoid the top seeded Lakers. Phil summed it up best saying, “They’re a little bit more susceptible, I think, just due to age, in defensive speed and quickness. And I think that’s maybe the difference between the team two years ago that won 67 games.” In other words, pack lightly Dallas, because your stay in the playoffs will be a short and quick one.