This is how it’s supposed to happen.
After a disappointing two-game stretch that had the Lakers questioning their roles and searching for answers, it took less than a full game in Dallas for the team to find its way. L.A. dominated from the start, and led by as many as 37 points on the way to a 115-89 total destruction of the Mavericks.
This game mattered for the Lakers, for a couple of reasons. One, it was nice to see a balanced effort from a rotation that went eight players deep and didn’t have a single dominant performance. Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, and Antawn Jamison all finished with 19 points apiece, and four other players managed to similarly end up in double figures.
And two, this is the same Dallas team that recorded an opening-night victory over these Lakers at Staples Center, in what was the first red flag during the tumultuous start of the season with Mike Brown beginning his second term as the team’s head coach.
Brown’s gone now, for obvious reasons, and Mike D’Antoni was able to flex the Lakers muscle on this night against a team that is truly inferior.
World Peace got things going for the Lakers early, beginning the game by scoring his team’s first 10 points. He was subbed out in favor of Jamison after less than five minutes, but that was D’Antoni’s plan with just about everyone, in order to conserve energy for a team playing its fourth game in five nights.
Jamison picked up where MWP left off, scoring six quick points before World Peace came back in to knock down a couple more three-pointers before the period was through. At the end of the first quarter, World Peace had 16 points in nine minutes on 6-of-7 shooting, and the Lakers had built a 13-point lead that was just getting started.
Kobe Bryant began the game in facilitator mode, playing nine first-quarter minutes without a shot attempt. He had two points from the free throw line, to go along with four assists and zero turnovers. The team is really much better off with Kobe running the point while Steve Nash and Steve Blake are out with injury, as his basketball IQ is second to none, which makes his reads while running the high pick and rolls that much more devastating for the Lakers opponents to deal with.
Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol got going a little bit, and Gasol got a few of those post touches he was clamoring for. Three of his seven shot attempts came on post up opportunities, and Gasol converted two of them — one with a sweeping left-handed hook in the lane, and the other with a back-to-the-basket baseline spin that he got to go with a jump hook.
The win was an important one for the Lakers — more in the way that it happened than the fact that it happened at all, because despite the impatience of the fan base, it is going to be a process getting everyone on the same page with the new head coach.
The good news with D’Antoni is that he knows what’s at stake, and has the same expectations of this Lakers team from the inside as those who are simply passionate observers.
“We should expect this every night,” D’Antoni said, via Lakers Nation. “And I think we will. I think once they feel comfortable with everything we’ll see this all the time.”
After dropping two straight and looking like a mess along the way, getting a much-needed win by crushing someone, anyone, is going to go a long way in making everyone believe what he’s saying is right.