Friday, April 4, 2008

Lakers Rally Past Refs, Mavs!

For a quarter, the game between the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center appeared like it was going to be a close, see-saw battle throughout. And with All-Stars Pau Gasol and Dirk Nowitski back for their respective teams, it also meant the teams would be close to full strength. Sure enough, the teams played to a 31-31 tie after one quarter.

The Lakers scored the first basket of the second quarter, and then the officials decided to put their blinders on. Was there a Donaghy sighting? I think so! Consecutive HORRIBLE calls - one on a Gasol travel where he was clearly pushed hard and fouled, and then a subsequent play where the Lakers Sasha Vujacic was purposely elbowed by a Maverick player and NO FOUL WAS CALLED totally changed the momentum of the game. The poor officiating deflated the Lakers and they quickly fell prey to a 16-0 Mavericks run over a 4:05 span. Down 47-33 at that point, the Lakers did manage to rally somewhat over the closing half of the period to trail 64-54 at halftime.

The Mavericks, in spite of some inspired play by Gasol maintained their double digit margin late into the third period. "The Machine," as Sasha Vujacic is known to by his teammates thanks to his deadly outside shot, buried a three-pointer with 1:33 to play to give the Lakers momentum headed to the fourth quarter.

In the closing period, Jordin Farmer and Vujacic hit on consecutive three-pointers. A Farmar free throw, layups by Luke Walton and Lamar Odom, along with a jump shot by "L.O." got the Lakers to within a point at 94-93 with 7:39 to play. From there it was a battle of wills. The Lakers finally took their first lead (103-102) since that early second quarter edge on an Odom lay-up with 2:20 to play. The Mavericks scored four points on free throws over the next minute to take a three point lead. The Lakers rallied once again though. Odom scored yet another layup to draw the Lakers back within a point. Dirk Nowitski missed a jumper, and Pau Gasol converted a three point play with a layup and free throw on the ensuing possession to put the Lakers ahead to stay with 40 seconds to go. A Nowtiski turnover, and two subsequent Kobe Bryant free throws effectively put the game away. Final score: Lakers 112, Mavericks 108.

With the win the Lakers clinched a playoff berth and moved into the #2 position in the Western Conference playoff race. The Lakers box score looked like most of us would like to see it, and that's with someone other than Kobe doing all of the scoring. Odom was extremely efficient, scoring 31 points on 12-for-14 shooting, and also grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out five assists. Gasol scored 25, and led the team with seven assists, while Kobe "only" scored 25 points, and grabbed 10 boards to go with his 6 assists. No other Laker scored in double digits, but Farmer and Vujacic each had nine points, including the aforementioned key 3-pointers. The Lakers travel to Sacramento to play the Kings at 9pt ET/6pm PT on Sunday.


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