On Shaq night at Staples Center, it was vintage Kobe Bryant taking over the game to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
The Lakers briefly trailed by three points early in Tuesday’s home win 101-81 victory over Dallas. And just like that brief lead, the Mavericks' playoffs hopes disappeared by the time the final buzzer sounded.
With only seven games remaining, the Lakers are two games up in the loss column and have the tie-breaker. Effectively, the Lakers ended the Mavericks’ season with a 20-point home win on Tuesday night.
It was Shaquille O’Neal night at Staples Center, and everyone dug it. Everyone in attendance received a Shaq jersey, and No. 34 went into the rafters alongside Wilt, Kareem, and other Laker greats only referred to by only one name.
With his former teammate and coach in attendance, Kobe Bryant recorded a triple-double. Pau Gasol came within four assists of a triple-double, and Earl Clark was five blocks away from recording a unique triple-double off the bench. Even with a shortened seven-man rotation, the Lakers consistently had more energy on both ends of the floor.
For the second game in a row, Bryant played over 47 minutes. The Lakers held a sizable lead, so Bryant was subbed out with less than a minute to allow for deserved applause, or the 34-year-old would have playing the full 48 minutes.
“I told you guys, he has that vino,” teammate Dwight Howard joked after the game. “I’m just happy we played the right way tonight, especially on the defensive end. That’s a big thing.”
Gasol and Clark may have earned deserved praise for harnessing Dirk Nowitzki all night, but everyone played well. Everyone—Bryant included—rotated on that end of the floor, and the Lakers did not have their usual defensive break-downs.
The Lakers still trail in the race for the playoffs due to the Utah Jazz holding the head-to-head tie-breaker. So with seven games to go, the Lakers need to play one better than the Jazz.
The Lakers needed a feel-good win like Tuesday night because the road to the playoffs does not get any easier.
The team has Wednesday off, practices Thursday, and the Memphis Grizzlies come to visit on Friday night.